KH’s Quotation from the Ratnagotravibhāga

By Ingmar de Boer on August 30, 2018 at 10:50 pm

1. What is so interesting about the Ratnagotravibhāga?

In the process of writing The Secret Doctrine, HPB started out writing a short history of occultism to show that that in different times a “universal secret doctrine” was known to many “philosophers and initiates”, and to describe the mysteries and some rites. This became a “large introductory volume”, and in a second and third volume, she described the evolution of cosmos and man respectively. In a letter to A.P. Sinnett (BL p. 195, letter LXXX dated March 3, 1886) she wrote that every section of the book started with a page of translation from the Book of Dzyan and the Secret Book of “Maytreya Buddha”. The initial “first” volume was not published until 1893, after HPB’s death, as a third volume to The Secret Doctrine, but in that volume there are also no translations to be found from this Secret Book of “Maytreya Buddha”. In the final 1888 version of The Secret Doctrine, we find indeed fragments from the Book of Dzyan, but not from the Secret Book of “Maytreya Buddha”.

From the letter to Sinnett we can derive that the Secret Book of “Maytreya Buddha” is an unknown version of the so-called “five books of Maitreya”. One of the known “five books” of Maitreya is the Ratnagotravibhāga (RGV), otherwise known as the Uttaratantra. Finding a reference to any of these five books would be interesting since at some point during the conception of The Secret Doctrine apparently the Mahātmas found the secret versions of these books of similar importance as a source for The Secret Doctrine (SD) as the Book of Dzyan itself.

2. A description of KH’s note

In the collection of Western Manuscripts in the British Library, in the seventh and last volume of the “Mahatma Papers” (Add MS 45289 B) we find a small note, folio number 268b, which was, according to A. Trevor Barker (ML p. xlvii), enclosed together with Mahātma Letter number XCII (96). (The Barker number is set in Roman style, followed by the chronological number of Vic Hao Chin Jr. in Arabic style between parentheses.) In their work Blavatsky’s Secret Books (p. 106), David and Nancy Reigle describe the text as a quotation from the Ratnagotravibhāga (RGV chapter I verse 21), identified as such by the Venerable Professor Samdhong Rinpoche. This is an colour impression of the note on the basis of ML p. xlvii:

The size is about 3-3.5 cm (1.25″) high, and 11.5 cm (4.5″) wide. At the bottom it is cut off with scissors or a sharp knife. The paper looks like part of an envelope. The verso side shows a monogram BLR or BRL on top of a ribbon bearing the appropriate text “Knowledge is power”, perhaps the logo of the paper or envelope manufacturer. Thin rice paper or librarian’s tape is attached to it. The paper was folded in three after it was cut off. It was written on after it was cut off.

The first line is unmistakably in KH’s “large script” handwriting. There is a horizontal line in the middle from left to right, which is part of the note, in blue pencil. Note that this line is not reproduced in the image, above.

Moreover, in ML (p. xlvii), Barker mentions that the note was enclosed with letter XCII (96), but in the manuscript book in the British Library there is an envelope with the note having folio numbers 268a and 268b, suggesting that the note was in a separate envelope. These folio numbers were assigned by a library employee at a later date. It is therefore unclear what was in envelope 268a.

The note shows three different scripts:

  1. The first script is in KH’s handwriting, in blue pencil. The two lines are a phonetic rendering of the second line, which is in Tibetan.
  2. The second script is Tibetan dbu can script. dBu can is not so much used for handwriting, as it is for printing or artwork. It is written in an uncoordinated manner, as if by someone who did not use this script on a daily basis. Perhaps the line was copied from a dpe cha leaf.
  3. The third is a small roman script handwriting, representing an English translation of the second line. Although the last line is written in the same pencil colour as the other lines, comparison shows that the third line is not the same handwriting. It could perhaps be KH’s, but it is very different from the script used in the top line. It is definitely not HPB’s or Sinnett’s.

Transcribing the three lines, we have:

1. Tampö tön-tu dau = wa yin Kyab ni Sang-gye nyag chik yin

2. Tibetan text

3. The only refuge for him who aspires to true perfection is Buddha alone

3. Analysis of the Tibetan text

Comparing the Tibetan line with the Tibetan version of the RGV, we can see one difference: the first “yin” is rendered “yi” in the RGV. A Wylie transliteration from the RGV in I.21 would be:

dam pa’i don du ‘gro ba yi, , skyabs ni sangs rgyas nyag gcig yin, ,

An English translation of the RGV from Tibetan by Eugene Obermiller has been published in 1931 (The Sublime Science […], Acta Orientalia IX, pp. 81-306):

In the absolute sense, the refuge
Of all living beings is only the Buddha.

This translation is not exactly the same as the one in KH’s note. Interestingly the main difference is in the phrase ‘gro ba yin, translated as “for him who aspires”. On the basis of ‘gro ba yi, instead of ‘gro ba yin, the most obvious translation would be “of living beings”. The primary meaning of ‘gro ba is “going” or “moving”, and from there the meaning of living or transmigrating beings is derived.

In 1935 and 1937, the discovery by the famous Rahul Sāṃkṛtyāyan of two partial Sanskrit manuscripts of the RGV was made public.

Journal of Bihar and Orissa Research Society, vols. XXI, p. 31 (III. Ṣalu monastery, vol. XI-5, No. 43) and XXIII, p. 34 (VII. Ṣalu monastery, vol. XIII-5, No. 242):

No. 43 Mahāyānottaratantra (author “Maitreyanātha”) in Śāradā script, 202/3×21/3 ‘, Incomplete

No. 242 Mahāyānottaratantra-ṭīkā (author “Asaṅga”?) in Māgadhī script 121/2×17/8 ‘, 54 leaves, Incomplete

In Sanskrit, the first half of verse I.21 is:

jagaccharaṇamekatra buddhatvaṃ pāramārthikam /

We might translate this as:

Ultimately, Buddhahood is the only refuge of living (transmigrating) beings,

where the Sanskrit equivalent of ‘gro ba is jagat, derived from the root gam, “to go”, and also meaning “that which is alive”, “living beings”, “the world”.

Perhaps there is a Tibetan manuscript of the RGV to be found, or a Tanjur edition, where the phrase ‘gro ba yin is erroneously used instead of ‘gro ba yi.

The transcription at the beginning of the note may be used to find an indication for the Tibetan dialect used. At first sight it looks like Central Tibetan, the dialect of the province of dbus gcang, which in the present time could be considered “standard Tibetan”.

4. The circumstances of letter XCII (96)

The text “KH’s three words” on the envelope of letter XCII (96) is not in KH’s typical handwriting. If KH would have written this, it would have been strange that he addresses himself in the third person. It is similar to Sinnett’s handwriting, therefore the date on the envelope, November 23, 1882, may represent the date of reception.

In the chronological edition on p. 335, Vicente Hao Chin Jr. tells us that in November 1882, Sinnett was given notice of termination of his services as editor of The Pioneer. This corresponds to p. 34 of Sinnett’s autobiography, published in 1986. In the chronology in the Readers’ Guide to the Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett (Linton and Hanson, 2nd ed. 1988, note: this chronology is different from the 1st ed. 1972), we can see that on March 30, 1883, the Sinnetts set sail for England.

In the letter XCII (96) itself, three passwords are given for the purpose of being able to authenticate future communication with the Mahātmas, and it is mentioned that Sinnett would need the passwords in London. This means that on November 23, 1882, it was known to KH that Sinnett would go to London.

Letter XCII (96) is actually only a postscript to letter LXXII (95). Of this letter it is also unclear when exactly it was received, but it is plausible that it was received in November 1882.

According to the “Reader’s Guide” it was received in (early) November 1882. According to Margaret Conger in the “Combined Chronology”, it was received in Allahabad in March 1882. However in the letter is spoken of a meeting which was held in December 1882, which makes it more likely that it was sent in November. Further, the envelope of the postscript is dated November 23, and there many other letters sent from KH to Sinnett from March to November. In this case it would have been a postscript to letter XCI. The KH-letters received by Sinnett in November were according to Conger: CXIX (ML p. 451), LXXIX (ML p. 382) (>= Nov. 17th), LXXX (ML p. 383) (>= Nov. 17th), XCIa (ML p. 415), XCIb (ML p. 416), and XCII (ML p. 419). In the chronological numbering only letters 95 (Barker LXXII) and 96 (Barker XCII) were received in November. This seems quite a difference! I have not taken the time to investigate this further.

Why was letter XCII (96) sent as a postscript and not as a separate letter? Letter LXXII (95) does not reflect the knowledge of Sinnett’s imminent leaving for England. The postscript mentions: “be prepared for it [that is forging of the handwritings of the Mahātmas] in London”. The topic of the letter, what went on in the lodge in Allahabad, has now become less relevant for Sinnett, because he has decided to leave India. We can imagine therefore, that the information of Sinnett’s leaving has reached KH just after he wrote the letter, prompting the need for a postscript.

Why was the note written, and why was it sent to Sinnett in the envelope of letter XCII? It was written because the author, KH, had this text in written Tibetan and wished to know for himself or someone else how it was pronounced, perhaps to memorise it or use as a mantra. The note was sent, most probably by KH, to be of use to Sinnett. It was already clear to KH that their relationship would change drastically when Sinnett would move to London. It seems that sending this line from the RGV is a gesture, a token of sympathy and brotherly support. We can use this text ourselves as a mantra for the purpose of realising the quality of taking refuge in only in the ultimate truth.



Category: Five Books of Maitreya, Mahatma Letters, Ratnagotravibhaga | 2 comments


Studies in the Jonang Revised Translation of the Kālacakra-tantra: 1.1-1.3

By David Reigle on August 19, 2018 at 4:33 pm

There was much interest in the Kālacakra-tantra when it appeared in India about a thousand years ago. So when it was brought to Tibet a short time later, it was translated from Sanskrit into Tibetan several times. The translation that would become standard was the one by the Sanskrit paṇḍita Somanātha and the Tibetan translator ‘Bro Shes rab grags. This translation was at some point revised by Shong ston Rdo rje rgyal mtshan, and it is only this revised version that we have. This revised Shong version was again revised when the Jonang teacher Dolpopa asked Blo gros rgyal mtshan and Blo gros dpal bzang po to do so. Shong ston says in his colophon that he used two Sanskrit manuscripts when making his revision, and the two Jonang translators say in their colophon that they used many (mang po) Sanskrit manuscripts when making their revison. So the Jonang revised translation of the Kālacakra-tantra is a revision of the Shong ston revision of the translation by Somanātha and ‘Bro lo tsā ba (Dro lotsawa).

The Kālacakra-tantra is a text of unusual difficulty, not only because of its arcane subject matter, but especially because it is written entirely in the sragdharā meter. In this long meter every syllable is regulated as to its length, long or short. So the writer cannot just say things as he would in prose, but must make every syllable fit the meter. The Tibetan translation, too, is regulated by meter, in this case by the total number of syllables allowed per line. This means that syllables giving important grammatical information often had to be omitted to fit the meter. Somanātha and ‘Bro lo tsā ba when making their translation had to fit the meaning into the required number of Tibetan syllables. Likewise, when Shong ston and the two Jonang translators were making their revisions, they could not just say what they thought was meant, but rather had to somehow fit this into the meter.

As already said, the unrevised translation of the Kālacakra-tantra by Somanātha and ‘Bro lo tsā ba is no longer available. The revision of it by Shong ston is found in several editions or recensions of the Kangyur, including the Lithang, Narthang, Der-ge, Co-ne, Urga, and Lhasa blockprint recensions, and also in a blockprint with annotations by Bu ston. The Jonang revision of the Shong revision is found in the Yunglo and Peking blockprint recensions of the Kangyur, and also in a modern typeset edition with annotations by Phyogs las rnam rgyal. All of the editions or recensions have a number of typographical errors. This must be carefully taken into account when trying to ascertain the differences between the Shong version and the Jonang version. Sometimes even the differences between two or more recensions of the same version, such as the Narthang and Der-ge recensions of the Shong version, are such that the correct reading can only be ascertained by comparision with the original Sanskrit. Once the texts are established, it is only by comparison with the original Sanskrit that we can try to determine what the Jonang revisers were attempting to clarify or correct.

Here follows the edited and corrected Sanskrit text, an English translation (by myself), the edited and corrected Tibetan text as revised by Shong ston, and the edited and corrected Tibetan text as revised by the two Jonang translators. The differences between the Shong and Jonang versions are underlined. Some comments on these are then given. For access to the eight blockprint recensions mentioned above, I have used the comparative Bka’ ‘gyur published in China, vol. 77 (2008). Six of these give the Shong version and two of these give the Jonang version. Since two textual witnesses for the Jonang version are not sufficient, I have used the edition with annotations by Phyogs las rnam rgyal published in the Jonang Publication Series, vol. 17 (2008), and the manuscript with annotations by Phyogs las rnam rgyal reproduced in Dus ‘khor ‘grel mchan phyogs bsgrigs, vol. 4 (2007). This same manuscript was also reproduced in Dus ‘khor phyogs bsgrigs chen mo, vol. 25 (2014).


sarva-jñaṃ jñāna-kāyaṃ dina-kara-vapuṣaṃ padma-patrâyatâkṣaṃ

buddhaṃ siṃhâsana-sthaṃ sura-vara-namitaṃ mastakena praṇamya |

pṛcched rājā sucandraḥ kara-kamala-puṭaṃ sthāpayitvôttamâṅge

yogaṃ śrī-kālacakre kali-yug-a-samaye mukti-hetor narāṇām || 1 ||


Having bowed with his head to the omniscient Buddha, who is the primordial wisdom body, which is the body of the sun, whose eyes are long like lotus petals, who is seated on a lion throne, who is bowed to by the best of gods, King Suchandra, having placed his joined lotus-hands on his head, asked for the yoga in the glorious Kālachakra, which latter is the group of vowels together with the consonants, for the sake of the liberation of human beings.


thams cad mkhyen pa ye shes sku dang nyin mor byed pa’i sku ste padma’i ‘dab ma rgyas pa’i spyan | |

sangs rgyas seng ge’i khri la bzhugs pa lha mchog rnams kyis btud la rgyal po zla ba bzang po yis | |

mgo bos rab tu phyag ‘tshal lag pa’i padma sbyar ba yan lag mchog la bzhag nas zhus pa ni | |

rnal ‘byor dpal ldan dus ‘khor ka phreng ldan pa’i a ‘dus la ste mi rnams dgrol ba’i don du’o | 1 | Shong


thams cad mkhyen pa ye shes sku dang nyin mor byed pa’i sku ste pad ma’i ‘dab ma rgyas pa’i spyan | |

sangs rgyas seng ge’i khri la bzhugs lha’i mchog rnams kyis ni btud la rgyal po zla ba bzang po yis | |

mgo bos rab tu phyag ‘tshal lag pa’i pad ma sbyar ba yan lag mchog la bzhag nas zhus pa ni | |

rnal ‘byor dpal ldan dus ‘khor ka phreng ldan pa’i a ‘dus su ste mi rnams dgrol ba’i don du’o | 1 | Jonang


Here the Jonang revisers have omitted the “pa” in “bzhugs pa,” “seated,” in order to make room for a newly added syllable, “ni” after “kyis.” The final “pa” in Tibetan words is often omitted in verse, and this does not usually create misunderstanding. The syllable “ni” typically marks where the subject is set off from the predicate. Here it sets off the subject, “by the best of gods,” “lha’i mchog rnams kyis,” from the predicate, “is bowed to,” “btud,” in this short subordinate clause. This short phrase is in the passive construction, which is the norm in Tibetan, and is also common in Sanskrit. In English, we would not regard “by the best of gods” as the subject, but in Sanskrit it is so regarded in passive phrases, and also in Tibetan. This whole phrase, “is bowed to by the best of gods,” is only a part of the longer description of what King Suchandra has bowed to, which takes up most of the first two lines of this verse. Hence it is one of the objects of the verbal, “having bowed to,” Sanskrit “praṇamya,” Tibetan “rab tu phyag ‘tshal.” In the Sanskrit, all of these objects of this verbal are individually declined in the accusative case. In the Tibetan, it is only the “la” after “btud” that shows the accusative for the several preceding objects of this verbal. This is common in Tibetan translations of Sanskrit verse, where economy as to the total number of syllables must be achieved. By adding “ni” before “btud,” perhaps the Jonang revisers wished to help avoid possible confusion regarding the larger function of the “la” after “btud.” They also changed “lha” to “lha’i,” adding the genitive “’i.” This spelled out the “of” in the “best of gods,” which otherwise was only implied, and it did so without adding a syllable.

Then in the last line the Jonang revisers changed “la” to “su” after “’dus,” “group.” This may be regarded as a formal correction. Of the seven “la don” particles, namely, “su, ru, ra, du, na, la, tu,” all having the same function of showing the accusative, dative, or locative case, “su” is supposed to be used after final “s.” But, of course, the rules are not always followed. The Sanskrit “samaye” shows that the locative case is intended here.


śūnyaṃ jñānaṃ ca binduṃ vara-kuliśa-dharaṃ buddha-devâsurāṃś ca

bāhye dehe pare ca prakṛtiṣu puruṣaṃ pañca-viṃśâtmakaṃ ca |

dehe viśvasya mānaṃ tri-bhuvana-racanāṃ bhukti devâsurāṇām

etad vyākhyāhi samyak tri-daśa-nara-guro maṇḍalaṃ câbhiṣekam || 2 ||


The empty, primordial wisdom, the drop, the best and the holder of the thunderbolt, buddhas, gods, and demons, in the outer, in the body, and in the other, spirit among the substances consisting of the twenty-fifth, the measure of the cosmos in the body, the arrangement of the three worlds, the enjoyment of the gods and of the demons, the maṇḍala, and the initiation; O teacher of gods and men, please explain this completely.


stong pa ye shes kyang ste thig le mchog mchog rdo rje ‘dzin pa sangs rgyas lha dang lha min yang | |

phyi dang lus dang gzhan la yang ste rang bzhin rnams la skyes bu nyi shu lnga pa’i bdag nyid dang | |

lus la sna tshogs tshad dang srid pa gsum gyi bkod pa lha dang lha min rnams kyi longs spyod dang | |

dkyil ‘khor dang ni dbang ste skabs gsum pa dang mi yi bla mas ‘di dag yang dag bshad du gsol | 2 | Shong


stong pa ye shes kyang ste thig le mchog dang rdo rje ‘dzin pa sangs rgyas lha dang lha min yang | |

phyi dang lus dang gzhan la yang ste rang bzhin rnams dang skyes bu nyi shu lnga pa’i bdag nyid dang | |

lus la sna tshogs tshad dang srid pa gsum gyi bkod pa lha dang lha min rnams kyi longs spyod dang | |

dkyil ‘khor dang ni dbang ste skabs gsum pa dang mi yi bla ma ‘di rnams yang dag bshad du gsol | 2 | Jonang


In the Shong version of this verse we have the phrase “mchog mchog rdo rje ‘dzin pa,” corresponding to the Sanskrit “vara-kuliśa-dharaṃ.” The Tibetan word “mchog” translates the Sanskrit word “vara,” meaning “best.” As may be seen, there is only one “vara” in the Sanskrit, while there are two “mchog”s in the Tibetan. This is because the Vimalaprabhā commentary explains this compound as an “eka-dvandva” (Jagannatha Upadhyaya Sanskrit edition, p. 48). More fully, this is an “eka-śeṣa,” “the remainder of one,” “-dvandva,” “dual.” This is a rare type of dual compound in which one of the members is not stated, but only implied, and only the other one remains. An example of this is “vṛkṣau,” the word “vṛkṣa,” “tree,” declined in the dual, meaning “vṛkṣa and vṛkṣa,” “tree and tree.” The Vimalaprabhā construes this compound as “varaś ca varaś ca kuliśa-dharaś ca vara-kuliśa-dharam,” meaning “best and best and holder of the thunderbolt.” This is how the translation “mchog mchog rdo rje ‘dzin pa,” in the Shong version was intended to be understood, as if the three terms were joined by “dang,” “and,” in between them. However, the additional “vara” is not found in the verse itself. So in keeping with the strict literal accuracy that characterizes the Tibetan translations of Sanskrit texts, the Jonang revisers removed the second “mchog” that was only implied, and replaced it with “dang,” showing that this phrase is to be understood as a dual compound, “the best and the holder of the thunderbolt.”

In the second line of this verse, the syllable “la” after “rang bzhin rnams” in the Shong version was replaced by “dang” in the Jonang version. The “la” intended the locative case, as seen in the Sanskrit “prakṛtiṣu,” “among the substances.” The “dang,” “and,” was presumably intended to show that “puruṣa,” “spirit,” is not among the twenty-four substances posited in the Sāṃkhya system. Rather, as the twenty-fifth principle, it forms a category of its own outside the substances. So unlike in the first line, where the Jonang version became a more literal translation, here in the second line it became a less literal translation.

In the last line, the last three syllables of the phrase “skabs gsum pa dang mi yi bla mas ‘di dag” in the Shong version have been changed to “ma ‘di rnams” in the Jonang version. The first of these three syllables in the Shong version, “mas,” has the instrumental ending “s,” “by,” yielding “by the teacher of gods and men.” Since Tibetan sentences are usually passive, the instrumental ending usually marks the subject. Something is done “by” the subject. This is with verbs other than imperatives, as we have here, Sanskrit “vyākhyāhi,” Tibetan “yang dag bshad du gsol,” “please explain.” With an imperative verb, when not the implied “you,” the subject would normally be in the vocative case, “O teacher of gods and men,” and would not have the intrumental ending. The change from “mas” to “ma” in the Jonang version has deleted the instrumental ending, allowing this to be understood as a vocative.

Interestingly, the corresponding Sanskrit phrase as found in all three printed editions, “tri-daśa-nara-guror,” is not in the vocative case. It is in the ablative or genitive case. Here, followed by “maṇḍalaṃ,” the natural reading would be “the maṇḍala of the teacher of gods and men.” The early Tibetan translations clearly did not read it this way. This discrepancy must be explained. The obvious answer is that the Sanskrit manuscripts that they translated from must have had the vocative, “guro,” rather than the ablative/genitive, “guror.” The difference is only a single letter, and in this combination it is merely a mark above the following Sanskrit letter. But the evidence of the printed Sanskrit editions is weighty, since in their aggregate they used several old palm-leaf manuscripts, and no variant reading is reported for this. This phrase is repeated verbatim in the Vimalaprabhā commentary, bringing in additional manuscript evidence. Again, no variant reading is reported here (Upadhyaya edition, p. 51). So which reading is correct? Fortunately, we now have access to at least three old Sanskrit manuscripts that were used in Tibet, and these can be checked. In 1971 Lokesh Chandra published a facsimile of a Kālacakra-tantra manuscript from Narthang monastery in Sanskrit Manuscripts from Tibet. Here the letters are slightly indistinct, but it appears to read “guror.” Another old palm-leaf manuscript that formed the primary basis for the edition of the Kālacakra-tantra by Raghu Vira and Lokesh Chandra (1966) and also the edition by Biswanath Banerjee (1985) has now become available online. It is from Nepal, and is now in the Cambridge University Library. As may be seen, https://cudl.lib.cam.ac.uk/view/MS-ADD-01364/4, it clearly reads “guror.” Two other palm-leaf manuscripts used by Banerjee, which were photographed in Tibet, are not accessible to me to verify that they in fact read “guror” as in his edition. The printed edition of the Kālacakra-tantra that is included in the printed edition of the Vimalaprabhā was largely based, in volume 1 edited by Jagannatha Upadhyaya (1986), on a later but carefully written paper manuscript. I was able to check this manuscript from a microfiche of it made by the Institute for Advanced Studies of World Religions (MBB I-24). Contrary to the printed edition, it reads “guro” in both the Kālacakra-tantra verse (folio 29B, line 9) and also in the Vimalaprabhā commentary (folio 32B, line 11). An old palm-leaf manuscript of the Vimalaprabhā that was used in Tibet is held in the library of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Calcutta (G 10766). It reads “guro,” as I was able to see from a microfilm of it (folio 20B, line 7). Another such Vimalaprabhā manuscript was reproduced by Lokesh Chandra in 2010 in Sanskrit Manuscripts from Tibet. It clearly reads “guro” (folio 23B, p. 20, the fourth folio side on that page, line 4). I then checked my microfilm of another palm-leaf manuscript of the Vimalaprabhā that was not used in the printed edition, from the Asiatic Society of Bengal (G 4727). It, too, reads “guro” (folio 37A, line 5). So despite every printed edition reading the ablative/genitive “guror” with no variant reading reported, and although “guror” appears even in some early Sanskrit manuscripts, the correct reading is clearly the vocative “guro.” This agrees with the early Tibetan translations, and is what would be expected with an imperative verb as we have here.

The last of the three-syllable phrase in the Shong version, “dag” after “’di,” “this,” was changed to “rnams” in the Jonang version. Since both of these show the plural, turning “this” into “these,” this can be regarded as a formal change. However, “rnams” is unambiguously a plural marker, while “dag” can specifically translate the Sanskrit dual number. Since this line of the Tibetan translation begins with two items, the maṇḍala and the initiation, “’di dag” could be understood to only refer to these two, while “’di rnams” clearly refers to all the preceding.


tuṣṭo ‘haṃ te sucandra pravara-sura-narai rākṣasair daitya-nāgair

na jñātaṃ vīta-rāgaiḥ parama-muni-kulair yat tvayā pṛṣṭam etat |

nirvāṇâdyaṃ dharântaṃ pada-gati-sahitaṃ deha-madhye samastaṃ

yogaṃ vyākhyāyamānaṃ śṛṇu su-nara-pate maṇḍalaṃ câbhiṣekam || 3 ||


I am pleased with you, Suchandra. By the best gods and men, by rākshasas, daityas, and nāgas, by those whose passions are gone, by the lineages of the highest sages, this that was asked by you is not known. The entire yoga, beginning with nirvāṇa and ending with the earth, together with the paths of words [i.e., the classes of letters], inside the body, and the maṇḍala and the initiation are about to be explained. Listen, good king!


zla ba bzang po khyod la bdag mgu gang zhig khyod kyis dris pa ‘di ni rab mchog lha rnams dang | |

mi dang srin po lha min klu dang chags bral thub mchog rigs rnams dag gis shes pa min pas so | |

mya ngan ‘das pa la sogs ‘dzin ma’i mthar thug tshig gi bgrod pa dang bcas sbyor ba mtha’ dag ni | |

lus dbus su ste dkyil ‘khor dag dang dbang ni bshad par bya yis mi yi bdag po bzang po nyon | 3 | Shong and Jonang


The Jonang version of this verse is the same as the Shong version.


So far, we have not seen any doctrinal changes in the Jonang version, but only clarifications of the meaning, primarily by means of the grammar.


Notes on the English Translation and the Sanskrit Text:


verse 1:

“sun,” dina-kara, literally, “day-maker.”

“whose eyes are long like lotus petals,” padma-patrâyatâkṣaṃ. This is a bahuvrīhi or possessive compound, “he whose eyes are long like lotus petals.” Long or large eyes are a mark of beauty in India. The Vimalaprabhā in explaining this compound uses “dīrgha,” meaning “long,” a synonym of “āyata” in this compound.

“on his head,” uttamâṅge, literally, “on [his] highest limb.”

“the group of vowels together with the consonants,” kali-yug-a-samaye. The natural reading would be kali-yuga-samaye, “at the time of the age of strife.” The Vimalaprabhā commentary, however, does not even notice such a reading, giving instead the interpretation as translated. Note that the word “samaya” in the meaning “group,” Tibetan “’dus,” is found only in Buddhist Sanskrit and in Pali, not in classical Sanskrit.


verse 2:

“enjoyment of the gods and of the demons,” bhukti devâsurāṇām. The word “bhukti” cannot really stand alone like this, without being declined. Nor can it really form part of a compound with the following “devâsurāṇām.” It stands in this way because of the meter, which requires a short syllable here. The editor of this volume of the Vimalaprabhā, Jagannatha Upadhyaya, has put “bhukti(r)devâsurāṇām” to call attention to this problem, adding the declensional ending “r” in parentheses. Of course, it cannot actually be added, because it would make the syllable long.

“gods,” tri-daśa (in the phrase, “of the teacher of gods and men,” tri-daśa-nara-guror), literally, “the thirty.” This is a common short form of “the thirty-three,” which a standard term for the thirty-three main gods in Hinduism.


verse 3:

“together with the paths of words,” pada-gati-sahitaṃ, explained in the Vimalaprabhā commentary as the classes of letters, i.e., the groups of gutturals, palatals, labials, etc. This is a good example of how words must be used unusually in order to fit the meter, especially here in the seven-syllable middle segment of a twenty-one syllable line, where the syllables must be six short followed by one long.

“about to be explained,” vyākhyāyamānaṃ. This is a present passive participle, meaning “being explained,” not “about to be explained.” It so happens that this present passive participle exactly fits the meter, so it was apparently used in place of the future passive participle. Since the Buddha has not yet begun his explanations, and therefore these things are not yet “being explained,” the intended meaning would be that of the future passive participle, “about to be explained.” None of the three possible forms of the future passive participle, neither the usual one, vyākhyātavyam, nor the other two possibilities, vyākhyeyam or vyākhyānīyam, would fit the meter.

“good king,” su-nara-pate, “king” is literally “ruler of men.”

Category: Jonangpa, Kalacakra, Kālacakratantra, Vimalaprabha | No comments yet


The three great Perfections in The Voice of the Silence

By admin on August 7, 2018 at 3:21 pm

The Voice of the Silence – verse 103 says :“The Path are two ; the great Perfections three ; six are the Virtues that transform the body into the Tree of Knowledge.”

The question is : what are these three great Perfections which are listed separately from the six Virtues (pāramitās) ?

Note 34 of verse 306 of The Voice of Silence identifies the Sambhogakaya as the same as Nirmanakaya, “ but with the additional lustre of the ‘three perfections,’ one of which is entire obliteration of all earthly concerns,” therefore identifying one of these “great perfections” as “obliteration of all earthly concerns”.

Schlagintweit (Buddhism in Tibet, 1863) has a similar understanding about Sambhogakaya as : “the body of bliss and the reward of fulfilling the three conditions of perfection.”

So, from these statements, the great Perfections called in The Voice of Silence are not Paramitas, but maybe the path of practice of the Paramitas. And if we consider that each set of practices brings a specific result, it would explain the statement for one of them about “obliteration of all earthly concerns”. Then we need to understand why this path is triple and what it encompasses.

Hermann Oldenberg says something similar to the Voice of Silence : “The primary demand made upon the monk is : thou shall separate thyself from this world1. He added later (p.288) : “Still we find in the sacred texts expressions which point to a definite path of thought traversing the wide range of moral action and passion, a distribution of all that tends to happiness and deliverance under certain leading. Above all there recur continually three categories, to some extent like the headings of three chapters on ethics : uprightness, self-concentration, and wisdom2.

In the narrative of Buddha’s last addresses, the discourse in which he places before his followers the doctrine of the path of salvation, is time after time couched in the following words : This is uprightness. This is self-concentration. This is wisdom.

Here, Oldenberg refers to the Mahâparinirvâna Sutra – The Great Passing Discourse, where we can read : “2.4 Then the Lord, while staying at Koțigâma, gave a comprehensive discourse: This is morality, this is concentration, this is wisdom. Concentration, when imbued with morality, brings great fruit and profit. Wisdom, when imbued with concentration, brings great fruit and profit. The mind imbued with wisdom becomes completely free from the corruptions, that is, from the corruption of sensuality, of becoming, of false views and of ignorance.”3

One of the renowned Tibetan Buddhism Traditions Holder from the 19th century, Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Tayé has a clear explanation : “ That the paramitas are definitively six is derived from the fact that when all the dharmas that the boddhisattvas practice are condensed, they are contained within the three trainings.4 The Ornament of the Mahayana Sutras5 explains:

The Victor perfectly elucidated the six pāramitās in the context of the three trainings. Three [pāramitās belong to] the first [training]; the last two are the [other] two forms [of training]; and one [pāramitā] accompanies all three [trainings].

Because the Six Pāramitās are usually listed in a specific order : “[The Pāramitās] are presented in this order because the latter ones arise on the basis of the earlier ones; they [progress from] inferior to superior, and [grow] from coarse to subtle.6, starting with Generosity, Ethical Conduct, Patience, Diligence, Meditative Concentration and Wisdom, we can deduct that :

– Generosity, Ethical Conduct and Patience may belong to the first training path,

– Diligence is the second training path

– Meditative Concentration is the third training path

All these pāramitās are endowed by the sixth one [Wisdom].

So, according to these concordant sources, the three great Perfections as stated in The Voice of Silence could mean the three Paths to the great Perfections, one of them [probably the first training path] leading to the “obliteration of all earthly concerns”.

1 BUDDHA: His Life, His Doctrine, His Order Chapter III. The Tenet of the Path to the extinction of suffering, p.287 from the English translation of William Hoey, Luzac 1928)

2 The Pâli expressions are : sîla, samâdhi, pannâ

3 The Long Discourses of the Buddha, translated from the Pali, Wisdom Publications, 1987, p.240

4 The three trainings (shikșhā, bslab pa) are the training in ethical conduct (shilashikșhā , tshul khrims kyi bslab pa), the training in samādhi (samādhishikșhā, ting nge ‘dzin gyi bslab pa), and the training in wisdom (prajñāshikșhā, shes rab kyi bslab pa).

Ornament of the Mahayana Sutras, Chapter 17, verse 7. Toh. 4020, f. 21b2-3; Dg. T. Beijing 70:851

6 Ornament of the Mahayana Sutras, Chapter 17, verse 14. Toh. 4020, f. 21b7; Dg. T. Beijing 70:851

Category: Book of the Golden Precepts | 1 comment


The Signature of Koot Hoomi in Mahatma Letter IV

By Ingmar de Boer on June 26, 2018 at 10:26 pm

In “The Orthography and Pronunciation of ‘Koot Hoomi’”1 we have derived a Sanskrit orthography of the name, as kuthumi or kuṭhumi, written in devanāgarī as कुथुमि or कुठुमि.2 There is however another source for the orthography of the name, in Mahatma Letter IV (Chronologically No. 5).3 KH’s signature is written there, besides in roman script, in devanāgarī:

The first thing we may notice looking at the signature, is that it is not a rendering of Sanskrit, but of a modern Indian language like Hindi, where the implicit a- or shwa-sound in consonants is dropped under specific circumstances. Without accounting for this shwa deletion, the signature would read kuṭhahūmī lālasiṅha. There are some peculiarities to the letters, probably due to the specific hand of KH, but if we interpret the signature, rendering it in standard devanāgarī, it is written कुटहूमी लालसिंह, and, accounting for shwa deletion, it would read kuṭhūmī lālsiṅh in roman (IAST) transliteration.

There are three differences to what we have found earlier:

  1. The ṭh sound in “Koot Hoomi” is not written using the single consonant ṭha, but using the two consonants ṭa and ha. Perhaps this might suggest a different origin than the Sanskrit kuthumi/kuṭhumi, contrary to the reference to the Viṣṇupurāṇa in The Theosophist.1, 2
  2. The u-sound in “Hoomi” is long instead of short, making the accent shift to the syllable “Hoo”, in accordance with the common pronunciation.
  3. The i-sound in “Hoomi” is long instead of short.

There are other signatures of KH in the Mahatma Letters in other interesting-looking scripts, and perhaps more information on the orthography and correct pronunciation is to be derived from those.


  1. http://prajnaquest.fr/blog/the-orthography-and-pronunciation-of-koot-hoomi/
  2. R. Ragoonath Row, “The Puranas on the Dynasties of the Moryas and the Koothoomi” in The Theosophist Vol. V No. 3 (December 1883), p. 99, later published in “Five Years of Theosophy” p. 482-484, and still later in CW VI, 40-42
  3. The Theosophy Wiki: http://theosophy.wiki/en/Mahatma_Letter_No._5



Category: Mahatma Letters | 3 comments


The Orthography and Pronunciation of “Koot Hoomi”

By Ingmar de Boer on June 17, 2018 at 4:27 pm

In a short article in the Theosophist (Vol. V No. 3 (December 1883), p. 991) by Mr. R. Ragoonath Row entitled “The Puranas on the Dynasties of the Moryas and the Koothoomi” we find an interesting reference about a Ṛṣi named “Kuthumi”. In an editorial comment, HPB indicates that there may or may not be a connection between the theosophical Mahātmā and this Ṛṣi “of that name”. From this last phrase we might derive that if we know the correct Sanskrit spelling of the name of this Ṛṣi, we also know the correct Sanskrit spelling (and therefore pronunciation) of the name of the theosophical Mahātmā.

The article further relates that the Ṛṣi is mentioned in Viṣṇupurāṇa III.6.2 In H.H. Wilson’s 1840 translation (which was known to HPB), the location is easily found, on p. 282:

Lokakshi, Kuthumi, Kushidi, and Langali were the pupils of Paushyinji; and by them and their disciples many other branches were formed.

In the critical edition of the Viṣṇupurāṇa by M.M. Pathak (of 1997-1999), we find the passage in line III.6.6 (here from GRETIL):

lokākṣiḥ kuthumiś caiva kuṣīdī lāṅgalis tathā / pauṣpiñjiśiṣyās tadbhedaiḥ saṃhitā bahulīkṛtāḥ // ViP_3,6.6 //

The IAST transliteration used here is “kuthumi”, spelled कुथुमि in devanāgarī. Moreover, in the 1866 edition of Wilson’s translation (Vol. III p. 60) a note is added by Fitzedward Hall, mentioning that the name is alternatively spelled “kuśumi”.

The pronunciation of the name naturally varies in different theosophical and other circles, but the most generally used English spelling “Koot Hoomi” wrongly suggests that it is pronounced with a pause between kut and humi, as does the common abbreviation “K.H.”. Also, it is generally pronounced with the accent on “hu”, which would be incorrect. The syllables would be “ku”, “thu” and “mi”, the accent being on on the first syllable. For correct hyphenation (in some languages) this will also make a difference. The spelling with “oo” also suggests that the “u” vowels are long, while in fact they are short, as is the “i” at the end.

Knowing the Sanskrit orthography, we have a starting point to find out more about the etymology of the name. Obviously, a reference to the “koothoompa’s”, supposedly a Tibetan group of followers of Koot Hoomi, should not be taken as a clue to a possible Sino-Tibetan origin. Further, the probable spelling of the name in Tibetan (Wiley transliteration) would be “ku thu mi”, from which “kut hum pa” or “ku thum pa” would be incorrect derivations.

Looking up “kuthumi” some of the available Sanskrit dictionaries (Monier-Williams, Böhtlink & Roth), we find that the word is a proper name which is identical to “kuthumin” and that a variant would be “kuṭhumi”. Some other places are mentioned where the name is used. Also the alternative spelling “kuśumi” indicated by Fitzedward Hall may be a clue as to the origin. Perhaps we might think of a Dravidian origin of the word. However, following up on this is beyond the scope of this short note.


1. Two years later (1885), this article was published in “Five Years of Theosophy” p. 482-484, and in 1954 in CW VI, 40-42.
2. See also the Theosophy Wiki: https://theosophy.wiki/en/Koot_Hoomi


Category: Sanskrit Texts | No comments yet


The Uttara-tantra: The Sublime Continuum?

By David Reigle on May 31, 2018 at 11:51 pm

A new English translation of the Ratna-gotra-vibhāga, also known as the Uttara-tantra, was published last year (2017), along with the commentary by Rgyal tshab dar ma rin chen. It was translated by Bo Jiang, and is titled: The Sublime Continuum and Its Explanatory Commentary, by Maitreyanātha and Noble Asaṅga, with The Sublime Continuum Supercommentary, by Gyaltsap Darma Rinchen. In recent decades, this famous text attributed to Maitreya has increasingly come to be referred to as The Sublime Continuum, a translation of the Tibetan translation of its Uttara-tantra alias, Rgyud bla ma. Unfortunately for Maitreya, this is not what the title Uttara-tantra means, not how it would be understood in India. It is an early misunderstanding of Rgyud bla ma, going back to at least fourteenth-century Tibet. This can now be seen, thanks to the discovery of the original Sanskrit text of the Ratnagotravibhāga in 1934 and its publication in 1950. The early misunderstanding apparently resulted, at least in part, from ambiguities in the Tibetan translation of this text.

As is well known, a single Tibetan word must often translate two or more different Sanskrit words. The Tibetan word rgyud must translate the Sanskrit words tantra as well as saṃtāna (and its derivative, sāṃtānika). A tantra is usually a kind of “text,” and also the “teaching” or “doctrine” or “science” taught in it, while a saṃtāna is a “continuum,” usually the continuum of a person. Of the twenty-one occurrences of the word rgyud in the canonical Tibetan translation of the Uttara-tantra and its Indian commentary, it translates tantra seven times, saṃtāna five times, and its derivative sāṃtānika nine times. Of the seven times rgyud translates tantra, one is in the title, five are in the title as repeated in the five chapter colophons, and one is in chapter 1, verse 160, referring to the title.

So the word rgyud as found in the title, Rgyud bla ma, translates tantra, whereas the word rgyud as found in the text itself translates saṃtāna (or sāṃtānika), with the single exception of in verse 1.160 where it refers to the title. The word rgyud as saṃtāna, used in the text itself, does indeed refer to a continuum, although that of a sentient being (e.g., 4.46: saṃtāna . . . prajāsu = ‘gro ba’i rgyud; 1.25 commentary: sattva-citta-saṃtāna = sems can gyi sems kyi rgyud). But the word rgyud as tantra, used in the title, refers to a teaching or a text. While “continuum” is one of the meanings of tantra, our concern is the meaning that was intended by the author. An uttara-tantra is a later or additional teaching, and has long been familiar in India as the concluding part of the famous medical work, Suśruta-saṃhitā. Thus, uttara-tantra refers to a teaching, a teaching that is a continuation, but not a continuum. Here uttara is usually understood to mean “later,” as contrasted with pūrva, “earlier,” but also implying its other main meaning, “higher,” i.e., a more advanced teaching.

Indeed, the Mahāparinirvāṇa-sūtra uses the example of a physician teaching the eight branches of medicine to his son, and only when these are mastered teaching him the uttara-tantra, the later and higher teaching. It then compares this with the Buddha first teaching about purifying the mental/moral afflictions (kleśa), the absence of self (anātman), etc., as the earlier branches, and only then teaching the uttara-tantra, the later and higher teaching, that of the tathāgata-garbha. The tathāgata-garbha, “embryo of a buddha,” i.e., the buddha-nature found in everyone, is of course the main subject of the book called Uttara-tantra. There can be little doubt that the authors of the Uttara-tantra and its Indian commentary were familiar with the Mahāparinirvāṇa-sūtra, since the reader is referred to it for more information in the commentary on verse 1.153.

The meaning of the title Uttara-tantra as “The Later/Higher Teaching” is confirmed in verse 1.160, saying, “but here in the later/higher (uttare) teaching (tantre),” as contrasted with what was taught earlier (pūrva). What was taught earlier (1.156) is that “all is empty in every way” (śūnyaṃ sarvaṃ sarvathā).” What was taught here later is “the existence of the element” (dhātv-astitvam), that “the buddha-element exists in every sentient being” (buddha-dhātuḥ . . . sattve sattve ‘sti). The buddha-element is a synonym of the tathāgata-garbha, the primary subject of the book called Uttara-tantra. The Tibetan commentators who take the title Rgyud bla ma to mean the sublime continuum understand this to refer to the unbroken continuum of the buddha-element, or a synonym of it such as the dharma-dhātu. Ironically, Gyaltsap Darma Rinchen is not one of these commentators. Gyaltsap favors the later (phyi ma) teaching as the meaning of the title. Bo Jiang did not use “the sublime continuum” in his 2008 thesis that became the book of that title. That title may have been an editorial change.

Another kind of ambiguity in the Tibetan translation, one that may have contributed to understanding the title as the sublime continuum, is seen in verse 1.160, the only place in the text where the words uttara and tantra occur. Both terms are in the locative case, uttare and tantre, “in the uttara tantra.” In the Tibetan translation of this verse, however, the locative case marker was omitted in order to fit the meter, which is strictly regulated by the total number of syllables per line: slar yang bla ma’i rgyud ‘dir ni. Thus, in Tibetan translation, this verse no longer explicitly says that the existence of the element was taught “in” the uttara tantra. Moreover, the final Tibetan “ni” in this line typically marks off the subject, making it at least possible to take the uttara tantra as the element that was taught. If the buddha-element is equated with the uttara tantra, it becomes easy to see the uttara tantra as the sublime continuum rather than the later teaching. Nonetheless, there are weighty reasons to avoid making this equation.

It is only fitting to bring in comments made by award-winning Tibetan translator Gavin Kilty from a 2007 post to an internet Kālacakra forum that started this inquiry. Referring to “The Sublime Continuum,” he wrote: “If this really is a term referring to the tathāgata essence, the subject of the first and main chapter of the book, then you would expect the term uttara-tantra to crop up many times in the book itself. How often does it appear? Not once. Nowhere (except for once when it refers to the book itself) is it to be found in the discussion of this topic. Terms used are tathāgata essence (de bshegs snying po, tathāgata-garbha), element (khams, dhātu) and lineage (rigs, gotra). These three terms are used interchangeably to describe the same thing but uttara-tantra is not used once.” Gavin had translated the first chapter of the Uttara-tantra for the FPMT, unpublished.

Besides verse 1.160, the one known Indian source that explains the title, Uttara-tantra, is a ṭippaṇī, brief textual notes, by Vairocana-rakṣita. He glosses it as uttara-grantha, taking tantra as grantha, “book.” Likewise, in the very early Chinese translation of the Uttara-tantra made from the Sanskrit by Ratnamati in 511 C.E. (Nanjio no. 1236, Taisho no. 1611), the word tantra in verse 1.160 is translated with the Chinese equivalent for śāstra, “treatise” (Jikido Takasaki, A Study on the Ratnagotravibhāga (Uttaratantra), p. 306 fn. 18). Thus, tantra was not understood as a continuum. The title of this text, then, Ratna-gotra-vibhāgo Mahāyānôttara-tantra-śāstram, was apparently understood in India as “The Ratna-gotra-vibhāga, A Treatise on the Later/Higher Teaching of the Mahāyāna.” The descriptive title was not understood as “A Treatise on the Sublime Continuum of the Mahāyāna.” As noted by many commentators, the later/higher teaching of the Mahāyāna obviously refers to the third promulgation of the Buddhist teachings, or turning of the wheel of the dharma, in contradistinction to the second promulgation. This may be described as a continuation, even a sublime continuation, but not as a continuum, the sublime continuum.


Category: Ratnagotravibhaga | No comments yet


More on the Recently Rediscovered Kālacakra-mūla-tantra Section

By David Reigle on March 31, 2018 at 11:52 pm

Not long after my July 9, 2017, post, “Kālacakra-mūla-tantra Section Rediscovered,” I received valuable input on it from three persons, all highly accomplished scholars and translators. I am very grateful to them for this. I delayed posting this information, thinking that I might also be able to add something about the contents of this text. This turned out to be a bigger task than I expected, because of the possibly controversial nature of some of its contents, and I ended up not doing so. So after this too long delay, I here post and discuss the valuable information that I received from these three.


The Title

First, on the title, Harunaga Isaacson kindly pointed out that my translation of it is not accurate. I had written: It is the Para-guru-guṇa-dhara section, the section on “the good qualities possessed by the best guru.” This may give the general meaning, but the Sanskrit title cannot be construed this way. It must be construed as: “Bearing/Holding the good qualities of the best guru.” Further, Prof. Isaacson noted that the Sanskrit title given in the text might possibly be a back translation into Sanskrit from Tibetan, and therefore might not be the original title. The Tibetan title by which the text is usually quoted by Tibetan writers, given on the title page of the Tibetan text, is bla ma’i yon tan yongs su bzung pa [ba]. This, as he suggested, would more likely represent Sanskrit Guru-guṇa-parigraha, for which he suggested an English translation, “Taking/Seizing on the good qualities of the teacher.” He further noted that this is reminiscent of the famous line, often quoted also by Kālacakra authors: ācāryasya guṇā grāhyā doṣā naiva kadācana. This may be translated as: “The good qualities of the teacher should be apprehended/perceived, never the faults at any time.” Prof. Isaacson later added that even the Tibetan title that is given in the opening lines as the translation of the Sanskrit title, Gtso bo[r] bla ma’i yon tan bzung pa [ba], might suggest as a possible underlying Sanskrit title something like Pradhāna-guru-guṇa-grahaṇa rather than the given Para-guru-guṇa-dhara.


The Text and Its Authenticity

As John Newman reminded me, he had referred to this text already in a note to an article published in 1987. I had a memory of this, and actually looked for it, but could not find his reference before I made my post. He had written that this text was known to Bu ston, who was one of the main compilers of the Tibetan Buddhist canon, but it was not included in the Narthang manuscript Kangyur that he helped compile. This Narthang manuscript Kangyur became the (or a) basis, whether directly or indirectly, for most (if not all) of the later blockprint Kangyurs, which helps to explain why this text is absent in them. John Newman in his article, “The Paramādibuddha (the Kālacakra Mūlatantra) and Its Relation to the Early Kālacakra Literature,” Indo-Iranian Journal, vol. 30, 1987, p. 99 note 17, wrote:

“Bu ston (writing ca. 1322) reports three erstwhile sections of the Kālacakra mūlatantra whose authenticity was questioned: (1) lCe spyang rol pa, (2) rDo rje glu gar, and (3) bLa ma’i yon tan yongs su bzung ba (Nishioka 1983: 70; index #1551-1553). Phur lcog Ngag dbang byams pa lists the same three texts in his dkar chag to the sNar thang Kanjur: sNar thang bka’ ‘gyur, KA, f. 104a/3-4 (I am indebted to Ven. Jampa Samten for pointing this passage out to me). Ngag dbang byams pa says these texts are not in the sNar thang Kanjur because Bu ston did not insert them among the tantras. Even so, he adds that Karma pa Rang byung rdo rje and dPa’ bo gTsug lag ‘phreng ba accepted these texts as authentic. He also mentions that they appear in the dkar chag of dBus pa bLo gsal, one of the editors of the Old sNar thang Kanjur. It is possible that these texts still exist in one of the gsung ‘bum or other text collections of the Karma bKa’ rgyud school.”

The reference to Nishioka 1983 is to “Index to the Catalogue Section of Bu-ston’s ‘History of Buddhism’ (III),” Annual Report of the Institute for the Study of Cultural Exchange, The University of Tōkyō, vol. 6, 1983, pp. 47-201. There we read, p. 70:

“bkol ba’i rgyud kyi dum bu gyi jo’i ‘gyur | yang bkol ba’i rgyud lce spyang rol pa dang | rdo rje glu gar dang | bla ma’i yon tan yongs su bzung ba dang gsum | ‘di rnams kha cig ma dag par ‘dod do ||”

Besides giving the three texts listed by John Newman, this tells us that they were translated by Gyi jo, the Tibetan lotsawa who worked with the Indian teacher Bhadrabodhi to produce the first ever Tibetan translations of Kālacakra texts, including the Kālacakra-tantra and its large Vimala-prabhā commentary. It also tells us that these three texts were regarded as “not pure” (ma dag pa), i.e., not authentic as John Newman put it better, by “some” (kha cig), the “some” remaining unnamed.

The dkar chag, the index or table of contents volume, of the Narthang Kangyur (snar thang bka’ ‘gyur), provides further information, as summarized by John Newman. This dkar chag is to the later Narthang blockprint edition. The Tibetan, from the Comparative Kangyur, vol. 106, p. 267, lines 17-21, is:

“rtsa rgyud kyi dum bu bla ma’i yon tan yongs bzung dang rdo rje glu gar gyi rgyud | ce spyang tshogs rol gyi rgyud de rtsa ba’i rgyud gsum du grags pa | bu ston gyis rgyud du ‘jug par ma mdzad pas ‘dir yang med | karma pa rang byung rdo rje | dpa’ bo gtsug lag ‘phreng ba bcas la rgyud rnam dag tu bzhed | dbus pa blo gsal gyi dkar chag tu’ang yod do ||”

After listing the three texts, this tells us that they were not included among the tantras (in the old manuscript Narthang Kangyur) by Bu ston, so they are also not included here (in the new blockprint Narthang Kangyur). It then says that Karma pa Rang byung rdo rje (1284-1339, the Third Karmapa) and dPa’ bo gTsug lag ‘phreng ba (1504-1566, Kagyu author of Chos ‘byung khas pa’i dga’ ston, “History of Buddhism: A Scholar’s Feast,” an important historical work comparable to Bu ston’s Chos ‘byung, History of Buddhism), accepted them as “pure” (rnam dag), i.e., authentic. It adds that they are also found in the dkar chag (of the old manuscript Narthang Kangyur) written by dBus pa bLo gsal (13-14th century).

To these sources may now be added the data from the dkar chag of the very old Yunglo Kangyur (g.yung lo’i bka’ ‘gyur), also written Yongle (from the Chinese). This was the first blockprint edition of the Kangyur, produced in 1410 C.E. Its data on this has become conveniently available in the Comparative Kangyur, vol. 105, p. 384, lines 14-16:

“rtsa mi’i rgyud gsum du grags pa lce spyang rol pa dang | rdo rje glu gar dang | bla ma’i yon tan yongs su bzungs ba gsum | rgyud yang dag du mi mdzad pas ma bkod do ||”

This source indicates Tsa mi (rtsa mi) as the translator of these three texts, rather than Gyi jo as was stated by Bu ston in the catalogue section of his Chos ‘byung, “History of Buddhism.” The colophon of the rediscovered Para-guru-guṇa-dhara (as I will continue to call it) also indicates Tsa mi as the translator (see below). Like the dkar chag of the Narthang edition, this dkar chag says that these texts were not included (in the Yunglo edition) because they were not considered to be authentic. By whom they were not considered to be authentic is not stated.

Regarding another one of these three texts besides the Para-guru-guṇa-dhara, namely, the Rdo rje glu gar gyi rgyud, we also have some material from it. This was found, again thanks to the ability to search the extensive Buddhist Digital Resource Center database of digital Tibetan texts. The Third Karmapa Rang byung rdo rje begins his Dpal dus kyi ‘khor lo’i mchod pa’i cho ga with a long quotation from the Rdo rje glu gar gyi rgyud. This is in Dus ‘khor phyogs bsgrigs chen mo, vol. 12, folio side 573 ff., and also in his gsung ‘bum available at the Buddhist Digital Resource Center, vol. 10, folio sides 455-469.


The Translator

According to the colophon, as pointed out to me by Cyrus Stearns, the translator of this text is Tsa mi Sangs rgyas grags pa. This agrees with what the dkar chag of the Yunglo edition of the Kangyur says. Here is the colophon (folio side 639, lines 3-4):

rgya gar phyogs kyi paṇḍi ta || bod kyi phyogs kyi lotstsha ba || rgya bod gnyis kyi skyes cig po || me nyag chen po pa zhes grags pa’i || mkhas pa sangs rgyas grags pas bsgyur || se ston lotstsha ba la gnang ||

This tells us, as explained by Cyrus Stearns, that the text was translated by the pandit Sangs rgyas grags pa, who was both an Indian pandit (rgya gar phyogs kyi paṇḍi ta) and a Tibetan translator (bod kyi phyogs kyi lotstsha ba). He was called Me nyag chen po pa (or Mi nyag pa) because he was from Mi nyag, a part of eastern Tibet near China. He had come to India when he was young, where he lived for a long time, becoming an Indian pandit. In fact, he is said to have been the only Tibetan ever to have become an abbot of a major Indian monastery (Nālandā and/or Vajrāsana). He is usually referred to in short as Tsa mi (or rTsa mi). The last phrase of the colophon tells as that he gave this translation to Se ston lotsawa, who was one of his main disciples.

Tsa mi, living in India, translated the entire Vimala-prabhā commentary into Tibetan. This is not the translation of the Vimala-prabhā that was included in the Tengyur, and it was long presumed to be lost. But it, like the Para-guru-guṇa-dhara, was recently recovered and was published in the same series. Its first three chapters are found in Dus ‘khor phyogs bsgrigs chen mo, vol. 3, and its last two chapters are found in vol. 4, immediately before the Para-guru-guṇa-dhara.

According to the Rwa tradition as reported by Bu ston, translated by John Newman (The Wheel of Time, 1985, p. 69, or his 1987 thesis, The Outer Wheel of Time, p. 84), Tsa mi and Somanātha and Abhayākara-gupta and others were co-disciples of Kālacakrapāda the younger. The translations of the Kālacakra-tantra and Vimala-prabhā made by Somanātha and ‘Bro lotsawa are the ones that are now found in the Kangyur and Tengyur. Since Tsa mi and his co-disciples lived within two generations from the time of the introduction of the Sanskrit Kālacakra texts into India, there would be no reason to suspect a corruption in the transmission lineage of the Para-guru-guṇa-dhara to the translator Tsa mi.

Something I noticed in the Para-guru-guṇa-dhara also speaks for its authenticity as an originally Sanskrit text. The one known and undisputed section of the Kālacakra-mūla-tantra is the Sekoddeśa. It is written entirely in the anuṣṭubh or śloka meter, have eight syllables per metrical foot. This meter was always translated into Tibetan in metrical feet having seven syllables. Most of the Tibetan translation of the Para-guru-guṇa-dhara also consists of metrical feet having seven syllables. However, at folio side 612, line 5, it switches from a seven-syllable metrical foot to a nine-syllable metrical foot. It then switches back to a seven-syllable metrical foot on folio side 617, line 6. The nine-syllable metrical feet indicate a change in meter in the Sanskrit original. A forger would hardly have made this change in a text that was expected to be entirely in the anuṣṭubh or śloka meter.

Category: Kalacakra, Kālacakratantra | 1 comment


Book of the Golden Precepts in Tibetan?

By David Reigle on January 31, 2018 at 11:33 pm

In my “Report on a Search for the Book of the Golden Precepts in Kalimpong, March 1998,”1 I quoted Anthony Elenjimittam saying that he, with the help of a Tibetan Lama, had compared the original (apparently Tibetan) of The Voice of the Silence, the “Book of the Golden Precepts,” with Blavatsky’s English translation, in Kalimpong around 1950:

“In my return to Kalimpong I stayed in the Tibetan monastery, taking part in their choral office and learning various branches of Mahayana and Tantrism. It was in that monastery that I first read with Lama Ping the Voice of Silence, the Book of Golden Precepts, with the English translation by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. With the help of the Tibetan Lama I could compare the English translation made by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky with the original, taking notes from the interpretation given by the Lama.”2

Some years later (around 1965), he published an edition of The Voice of Silence in Bombay, with his own commentary. From the late 1990s until last month I had been unable to consult this edition, to see if he said anything more in it about the original. The only copy of this book listed on WorldCat (OCLC) is held by the British Library. They were not willing to lend it through interlibrary loan or to photocopy it or scan it. Finally, with the help of intermediaries Robert Hütwohl and Leslie Price, arrangements were made for Janet Lee to visit the British Library and see it in person. She was able to photograph all of its pages with her smartphone, and she kindly sent them to me. So at last I was able to see what is in this book.

The WorldCat listing, apparently provided by the British Library, is as follows:

The Voice of Silence. Translated from the Tibetan by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky [or rather, written by her]. With a commentary by Anthony Elenjimittam. Bombay: Aquinas Publications, [1965?].

From this, it seemed that the bracketed “[or rather, written by her]” was included by Anthony Elenjimittam in the title. This would contradict his statement quoted above, made in 1983. In fact, access to his book showed that this bracketed material is not on his title page, but is an addition apparently made by the person who catalogued the book for the British Library. This is quite irregular for librarians to do, which is why it seemed that the bracketed material in the listing was on the title page and was put there by Elenjimittam himself. Instead, what we find in his book is:

On the cover: “Voice of Silence, English Translation by Helena P. Blavatskey, with a Commentary by Anthony Elenjimittam”

On the title page: “The Voice of Silence, Translated from the Tibetan by Helena Petrovna Blavatskey, With a Commentary by Anthony Elenjimittam”

From Anthony Elenjimittam’s Introduction, dated 1964, p. ii: “. . . THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE, or fragments from the Book of the Golden Precepts which has been beautifully translated by Helena Petrovna Blavatskey from the original Tibetan, . . .” “While preserving the original translation of the text from Tibetan by H.P.B., . . .”

From Elenjimittam’s “commentary and annotations,” pp. 35-36: “A Tibetan Lama with whom I first read the VOICE OF SILENCE in the original Tibetan and in its English translation . . . .”

As may be seen, he consistently reported that he had compared this with the original Tibetan. No one has yet found a Tibetan original for the “Book of the Golden Precepts,” part of which was allegedly translated into English by Blavatsky as The Voice of the Silence. This is despite the fact that huge numbers of Tibetan books have become available in recent decades. As I wrote in my 1998 Report, Lama Ping (actually named Lama Tinley) was from Bhutan, and went back there some time after working with Elenjimittam. The presumption was that he had the Tibetan book with him, and took it back to Bhutan when he returned there. He died in 1985. So we still seek a Tibetan original of the “Book of the Golden Precepts.”



  1. Published in Blavatsky’s Secret Books: Twenty Years’ Research, 1999, pp. 151-153 (attached as: report_search_golden_precepts_kalimpong).
  2. This statement is found in his book, Cosmic Ecumenism via Hindu-Buddhist Catholicism: An Autobiography of an Indian Dominican Monk, p. 270. Bombay: Aquinas Publications, [1983].

Category: Book of the Golden Precepts | 1 comment


Hans Malmstedt on Occult Chronology

By David Reigle on December 3, 2017 at 4:37 am

In the posts of April 29th, July 18th, and July 24th, 2012, reference was made to material by Hans Malmstedt that was cited by David Pratt. The two articles by Hans Malmstedt have now become easily available in their source journal, The Theosophical Path, posted at the Theosophical University Press website. I have extracted the two articles and now post them here. They are:

The Cycles of the Cosmos, Hans Malmstedt 1931

Our Position in Time on Globe D, Hans Malmstedt 1933

Category: Occult Chronology | No comments yet


The Three Natures in the Pañcaśatikā Prajñāpāramitā

By David Reigle on September 7, 2017 at 11:53 pm

The Pañcaśatikā Prajñāpāramitā sūtra, the sūtra on Perfection of Wisdom in Five Hundred Lines, when describing the aggregates, etc., uses three terms that apparently refer to the three natures (svabhāva) taught in Yogācāra texts. As a Prajñā-pāramitā sūtra, it would be part of the second promulgation of the Dharma, while the sūtras behind the Yogācāra texts are part of the third promulgation of the Dharma. Because of this, the Tibetan teacher Dolpopa regarded the Pañcaśatikā Prajñāpāramitā as a text of definitive meaning (nītārtha), and characterized it as one of the Buddha’s own auto-commentaries (rang ‘grel ) on the extensive Prajñā-pāramitā sūtras. Dolpopa taught that the Prajñā-pāramitā sūtras should be understood by way of the three natures found in these “auto-commentaries.” However, one of the three terms used in the Pañcaśatikā Prajñāpāramitā in its Tibetan translation does not seem to fit well as referring to the three natures. The original Sanskrit text was long lost, and with no Indian commentary to consult even in Tibetan translation, there was no way to determine what was actually meant by this term. Fortunately, the Sanskrit original was recovered in Tibet and published in 2016 as number 20 of the important series, Sanskrit Texts from the Tibetan Autonomous Region.1

The three terms in the Tibetan translation of the Pañcaśatikā Prajñāpāramitā, near the beginning, are dngos po med pa, dngos po ngan pa, and dngos po yod pa, translated by Edward Conze in 1973 as “non-existence,” “a poorish kind of existence,” and “existence,” and translated by Cyrus Stearns in 2010 as “nonexistent,” “an inferior existence,” and “existent.”2 These are supposed to correspond to the three natures: the imagined (parikalpita, kun brtags), the dependent (paratantra, gzhan dbang), and the perfect (pariniṣpanna, yongs grub). As may be seen, the second term in the Pañcaśatikā Prajñāpāramitā, dngos po ngan pa, “a poorish kind of existence,” or “an inferior existence,” does not seem to fit well in this scheme. Yet these English terms are fully accurate translations of the Tibetan term. With the Sanskrit now available, we can see what happened. The three Sanskrit terms are: abhāva, “non-existent,” nâbhāva (na abhāva), “not non-existent,” and sad-bhāva, “truly existent.”3 These correspond well to the three natures taught in Yogācāra texts: the imagined, the dependent, and the perfect.

The Tibetan translator, perhaps to avoid the double negative that is in the Sanskrit, na abhāva, “not non-existent,” chose dngos po ngan pa to translate this second term, ostensibly “a poorish kind of existence,” or “an inferior existence.” The common meaning of ngan pa is indeed “poorish” or “inferior,” as Conze and Stearns translated it. However, here the Tibetan translator apparently intended one of the uncommon meanings of ngan pa, namely, asat, “not true,” thus yielding “not truly existent” in contrast with the third term, “truly existent.” This meaning of ngan pa as asat can be found in the Bodhisattvabhūmi (Nalinaksha Dutt edition, 1966, p. 98): asat-saṃkathā, ngan pa’i gtam, “untrue conversation.” Another example of this meaning can be found in the Jātakamālā (P. L. Vaidya edition, 1959, p. 159): asad-dṛṣṭiḥ, lta ba ngan pa, “false view.”4

With the help of the original Sanskrit, we can now see that these three terms in the Pañcaśatikā Prajñāpāramitā do in fact correspond well to the three natures taught in Yogācāra texts. Three other terms that apparently refer to the three natures taught in Yogācāra texts are used in another Prajñā-pāramitā text that Dolpopo regarded as being of definitive meaning (nītārtha), and that he characterized as one of the Buddha’s own auto-commentaries (rang ‘grel ) on the extensive Prajñā-pāramitā sūtras. The Maitreya Paripṛcchā or “Questions of Maitreya” chapter of the Prajñā-pāramitā sūtras in 25,000 and 18,000 lines, when describing the aggregates, etc., uses parikalpita, “imagined,” vikalpita, “conceptually differentiated,” and dharmatā, “true nature” (Tibetan kun brtags pa, rnam par brtags pa, and chos nyid ). These, too, correspond well to the three natures: the imagined, the dependent, and the perfect.

An extensive commentary on all three of the large Prajñā-pāramitā sūtras, those in 100,000 lines, 25,000 lines, and 18,000 lines, directly equates the three natures taught in Yogācāra texts with the three terms found in the “Questions of Maitreya” chapter, and uses these terms throughout in its explanations.5 Dolpopa drew heavily upon this commentary, called in short the Bṛhat-ṭīkā, “Large Commentary,” and known in Tibet as the Yum gsum gnod ‘joms, “Destruction of Objections to the Three Mother Sūtras.”6 Most of Tibetan tradition, including Bu-ston who edited the Tengyur, regarded it as being written by the early Indian teacher Vasubandhu, famous for his Yogācāra treatises. Tsongkhapa, however, held that it was written by the much later writer Daṃṣṭrāsena, because it included some late references. It is of course possible that Daṃṣṭrāsena merely added some things to the earlier text by Vasubandhu. In any case, the method of understanding the Prajñā-pāramitā sūtras by way of the three natures taught in Yogācāra texts goes back at least to Dignāga, who is traditionally regarded as a direct disciple of Vasubandhu. Dignāga wrote in his Prajñāpāramitā-piṇḍārtha, verses 27-29:7


prajñā-pāramitāyāṃ hi trīn samāśritya deśanā |
kalpitaṃ paratantraṃ ca pariniṣpannam eva ca || 27 ||

The teaching in the Perfection of Wisdom is based on three:
the imagined, the dependent, and the perfect.

nâstîty-ādi-padaiḥ sarvaṃ kalpitaṃ vinivāryate |
māyôpamâdi-dṛṣṭāntaiḥ paratantrasya deśanā || 28 ||

By the words, “does not exist,” etc., all the imagined is refuted.
By the examples, like an illusion, etc., the teaching of the dependent [is given].

caturdhā vyavadānena pariniṣpanna-kīrtanam |
prajñāpāramitāyāṃ hi nânyā buddhasya deśanā || 29 ||

By the fourfold purification, the perfect is taught.
For in the Perfection of Wisdom there is no other teaching of the Buddha.


Dolpopa, then, was not innovating when he advocated understanding the Prajñā-pāramitā sūtras by way of the three natures taught in Yogācāra texts. He was merely following a much older Indian tradition. This led him to find correspondences to these three natures in the Prajñā-pāramitā sūtras themselves, such as the Pañcaśatikā Prajñāpāramitā. He quoted the whole opening section of this sūtra at the beginning of his concise text, Ngo sprod khyad ‘phags, “Exceptional Introduction.”8 He then equated its three terms with the three natures taught in Yogācāra texts. He said the same thing, again equating its three terms with the three natures, in his Autocommentary to the “Fourth Council”.9 Thus, the Pañcaśatikā Prajñāpāramitā with its three terms corresponding to the three natures was regarded by Dolpopa as a text of considerable importance for understanding the Prajñā-pāramitā sūtras.




  1. Pañcaśatikā Prajñāpāramitā: Sanskrit and Tibetan Texts, critically edited by Li Xuezhu and Fujita Yoshimichi. Beijing: China Tibetology Publishing House, and Vienna: Austrian Academy of Sciences Press, 2016.
  2. “The Perfection of Wisdom in 500 Lines,” in The Short Prajñāpāramitā Texts, translated by Edward Conze (London: Luzac & Company, 1973), p. 108. Relevant sentence quoted by Cyrus Stearns in The Buddha from Dölpo: A Study of the Life and Thought of the Tibetan Master Dölpopa Sherab Gyaltsen (Ithaca, N.Y.: Snow Lion Publications, 2010), p. 101, with reference to Dolpopa’s comment on it in his Autocommentary to the “Fourth Council”, p. 233. In the 1999 first edition this quotation is on pp. 96-97, and the three terms are translated as: “a nonexistent entity, a base entity, and an existent entity.”
  3. These three terms first describe the neuter word rūpam, “form” (p. 1), so according to their masculine gender they would be nouns rather than adjectives; e.g., “non-existence” rather than “non-existent.” However, to call form “non-existence” does not make sense to me. So bhāva is probably used here as the noun, “an existent” (an existing thing). The sentence, then, would say: “form is a non-existent, not a non-existent, and a truly existent.” This is rather awkward English. I think the same idea is conveyed by translating these terms as if they were adjectives: “form is non-existent, not non-existent, and truly existent.” This is what I have done, even though it is not a literally accurate translation.
  4. These examples are found in J. S. Negi, Tibetan-Sanskrit Dictionary, Sarnath, Varanasi: Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies, vol. 3, 1995. I have only added the English translations.
  5. Ārya-śata-sāhasrikā-pañcaviṃśati-sāhasrikâṣṭādaśa-sāhasrikā-prajñāpāramitā-bṛhaṭ-ṭīkā.
  6. For the English translation of this title, I follow Stearns, 2010 (see note 2 above), p. 97.
  7. The original Sanskrit was first edited by Giuseppe Tucci and published in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society in 1947, which I have scanned and posted here: http://www.downloads.prajnaquest.fr/BookofDzyan/Sanskrit%20Buddhist%20Texts/prajnaparamita_pindartha_1947.pdf. It was published again in 1959 by Erich Frauwallner in the Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde Süd- und Ostasiens in 1959, which I have scanned and posted here: http://www.downloads.prajnaquest.fr/BookofDzyan/Sanskrit%20Buddhist%20Texts/prajnaparamita_pindartha_1959.pdf. Although Tucci also included an English translation, I have here re-translated these verses more literally.
  8. The Ngo sprod khyad ‘phags is found in volume 12 of the 13-volume modern typeset edition of the collected writings of Dolpopa, pp. 40-52 (jo nang kun mkhyen dol po pa shes rab rgyal mtshan gyi gsung ‘bum, [Beijing:] krung go’i bod rig pa dpe skrun khang, 2011). For the English translation of this title, “Exceptional Introduction,” I follow Stearns, 2010 (see note 2 above), p. 422. Matthew Kapstein describes it as: “An ‘introduction’ (ngo-sprod ) to the ultimate and definitive significance (nges-don mthar-thug) of the doctrine.” (The ‘Dzam-thang Edition of the Collected Works of Kun-mkhyen Dol-po-pa Shes-rab Rgyal-mtshan: Introduction and Catalogue, p. 66. Delhi: Shedrup Books, 1992). The opening section of this sūtra that Dolpopa quoted (pp. 40-43) corresponds to the Sanskrit edition (see note 1 above), sections 1 and 2, pp. 1-4.
  9. Translated by Stearns, 2010 (see note 2 above), p. 233, and quoted by him on p. 101. In the 1999 first edition this is quoted on p. 96.

Category: Uncategorized | 1 comment


Kālacakra-mūla-tantra Section Rediscovered

By David Reigle on July 9, 2017 at 9:43 pm

A large section of the otherwise lost Kālacakra-mūla-tantra has now been rediscovered. It is approximately three times as large as the only other section known, the Sekoddeśa. It is the Para-guru-guṇa-dhara section, the section on “the good qualities possessed by the best guru.” This text is itself called a tantra in the one manuscript we now have, the Para-guru-guṇa-dhara-nāma-tantra, since the tantra it comes from is not extant. Perhaps this title is the reason why it does not yet seem to have been noticed as a section of the Kālacakra-mūla-tantra, although it became available in 2014. It had been out of circulation for centuries. What led me to it was a quoted verse that for long I could not trace.

An intriguing verse from the Kālacakra-mūla-tantra was quoted by the 16th-century Kagyu writer Dakpo Tashi Namgyal (dwags po bkra shis rnam rgyal) in his well-known text on meditation, Phyag chen zla bai od zer, “Mahāmudrā, the Moonlight,” or “Moonbeams of Mahāmudrā.” This text was translated into English by Lobsang P. Lhalugpa and published in 1986 as Mahāmudrā: The Quintessence of Mind and Meditation, by Takpo Tashi Namgyal (second edition published in 2006 as Mahāmudrā, The Moonlight: Quintessence of Mind and Meditation, by Dakpo Tashi Namgyal). The verse is there introduced as “The Kālacakra-mūlatantra states:” and is translated as follows (p. 181; 2nd ed. p. 183):


The innate mind of sentient beings is luminous clarity;

From the beginning it is detached

From the absolute attributes of arising, ceasing, and settling.

Since beginningless time it has been the primordial supreme Buddha,

Because it has been unmodulated by cause and condition.


The “innate mind” is equated with “luminous clarity” (which obviously translates the Tibetan od gsal, Sanskrit prabhāsvara) and with the “primordial supreme Buddha” (which is obviously the ādi-buddha or paramādi-buddha). What is the Tibetan or Sanskrit term for this “innate mind” that is also luminosity (or the clear light) and the ādi-buddha, I wondered. Is it also in the extant shorter (laghu) Kālacakra-tantra or its Vimala-prabhā commentary? The Tibetan text of this verse could be found in the 1978 publication, Ṅes don phyag rgya chen po’i sgom rim gsal bar byed pa’i legs bśad zla ba’i ‘od zer, or in short, Phyag chen zla ba’i ‘od zer, by Dwags-po Pan-chen Bkra-śis-rnam-rgyal, “reproduced from rare prints from the Dwags-lha Sgam-po blocks” (published at Bir, H.P., by D. Tsondu Senghe), folio side 169, lines 2-3:


dus ‘khor rtsa rgyud las |

sems can sems nyid ‘od gsal zhing |

gdod nas skye ‘gag gnas bral te |

thog ma med pa’i sngon rol nas |

dang po mchog gi sangs rgyas te |

rgyu med rkyen gyis ma bslad pa |


Having the Tibetan text of this verse meant that it was possible to try to locate its source. So I checked the only known section of the Kālacakra-mūla-tantra, the Sekoddeśa, which consists of 174 verses, all of the Kālacakra-mūla-tantra quotations found in the Vimala-prabhā commentary, and in the other two texts of the so-called bodhisattva-piṭaka written by the bodhisattva kings of Sambhala, the Laghu-tantra-ṭīkā and the Hevajra-piṇḍārtha-ṭīkā, and also in Nāropā’s Sekoddeśa-ṭīkā. I then asked the late Edward Henning to check the large database of Tibetan Kālacakra texts that he had assembled. I even checked the extant (laghu) Kālacakra-tantra for good measure, even though the meter is quite different. No results in any of these sources. Yet I knew that Dakpo Tashi Namgyal would not just make up this verse. It had to exist somewhere.

In recent years the former Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center, now the Buddhist Digital Resource Center, has been assembling a very large database of electronically searchable Tibetan texts, including the entire Kangyur and Tengyur. A contact regarding the ādi-buddha at the 2017 Translation and Transmission Conference reminded me of my old search, so after I returned home I searched the BDRC database for this verse. It was nowhere found in the Kangyur or Tengyur, but it appeared in the collected writings (gsung bum) of Gampopa (sgam po pa, 1079-1153), founding father of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. It was quoted twice by Gampopa in his Bstan bcos lung gi nyi od, “Sunshine of Treatises and Scriptures,” first as from the Kālacakra-mūla-tantra (dus ‘khor rtsa rgyud du), and then (with two additional preceding lines) as from the Bla ma‘i yon tan yongs su bzung ba’i rgyud. With this latter title, the text could be traced.

The Bla ma‘i yon tan yongs su bzung ba’i rgyud is found in the collection of Kālacakra texts called Dus ‘khor phyogs bsgrigs chen mo, volume 4, pages 583-639. This set was published in Lhasa in 2012, although it did not become available until 2014. The first seven volumes of this set consist of Tibetan translations of Sanskrit texts, being either different translations than the ones found in the Kangyur and Tengyur, or in a few cases (such as this one) different texts that are not found there. Most of these texts (including this one) had been gathered from other monasteries and sealed away in the Nechu temple at Drepung Monastery around the 1650s under the direction of the Fifth Dalai Lama. They remained sealed away there until very recently (see the “Drepung catalogue,” 2 vols., 2004, where the Bla ma‘i yon tan yongs su bzung ba’i rgyud is no. 944, vol. 1, p. 105).

The opening page of the Bla ma‘i yon tan yongs su bzung ba’i rgyud gives the original Sanskrit title, which as slightly corrected by me is Para-guru-guṇa-dhara-nāma-tantra. This is followed by a Tibetan title, differing somewhat from the one found on the title page, that more closely matches the Sanskrit title: Gtso bo[r] bla ma’i yon tan bzung pa zhes bya ba’i rgyud. Still nothing tells us that this text is from the Kālacakra-mūla-tantra. Although this volume had been on my shelf since 2015, I had never checked the colophon.

The colophon on the last page (folio side 639, lines 3-4) tells us that this text, there titled Gtso bor bla ma’i yon tan bzung pa, was extracted from the Kālacakra-mūla-tantra (whose proper name is the Paramādi-buddha): dpal dang po mchog gi sangs rgyas rtsa ba’i rgyud chen po nas ‘byung pa. It also tells us that this text is a separate section of the tantra: bkol ba dum bu’i rgyud. The verse quoted from it first by Gampopa when this text was still available in Tibet, and then probably quoted from him by Dakpo Tashi Namgyal four centuries later when this text was no longer available there, is found near the beginning on folio sides 584-585. At last the verse quoted from the Kālacakra-mūla-tantra that I had long ago seen in Lobsang Lhalungpa’s translation of Dakpo Tashi Namgyal’s text had been traced to its source. The source turned out to be a long lost section of the Kālacakra-mūla-tantra, and it has recently become available again.


Category: Kalacakra, Kālacakratantra | 4 comments


Mahatma Letters Problems in Transmission

By David Reigle on June 30, 2017 at 11:15 pm

As explained by Blavatsky, the vast majority of the Mahatma letters were written by chelas who functioned as amanuenses for the Mahatma author.1 This ranged from taking direct dictation from the Mahatma (usually telepathically), to clothing the ideas given by the Mahatma in the words of the chela, to the chelas themselves providing the ideas when given only a general directive. Naturally, this led to problems when the chela amanuensis was unfamiliar with the subject matter, such as when a Hindu chela had to write on a Buddhist subject.

An example of this may be seen in Mahatma letter #9, chronological #18, which was discussed here in the post, “A Mahatma Letters Puzzle” (March 31, 2017). In that Mahatma letter we read (3rd edition, p. 47): “Matter found entirely divorced from spirit is thrown over into the still lower worlds—into the sixth ‘Gati’ or ‘way of rebirth’ of the vegetable and mineral worlds, and of the primitive animal forms.” In The New American Cyclopaedia entry on which this was based we read (p. 66): “In some cases the soul of man may sink even below the 6 Gatis or ways of rebirth into the vegetable and mineral way; . . .” The English of this latter sentence, taken by itself, is somewhat ambiguous. It is possible to take “rebirth into the vegetable and mineral way” as a unit. This is apparently how the chela amanuensis of the Mahatma letter took it, so that he or she could speak of the “‘way of rebirth’ of the vegetable and mineral worlds.” However, this is not what the New American Cyclopaedia writer meant, nor is what Buddhism teaches.

As written earlier in this article by the New American Cyclopaedia writer (p. 65), Buddhism teaches these six gatis or ways of rebirth, those of: 1. the devas or gods; 2. men; 3. the asuras or bad genii; 4. animals; 5. pretas or monsters of hunger and thirst; 6. the denizens of hell. There is no “‘way of rebirth’ of the vegetable and mineral worlds” as the chela amanuensis understood it. The sentence by the New American Cyclopaedia writer should have been understood as “In some cases the soul of man may sink even below the 6 Gatis or ways of rebirth [pause] into the vegetable and mineral way; . . .” This is an example of a problem in transmission apparently caused by a chela amanuensis who was not familiar with the Buddhist teachings. The Theosophical teachings may well hold that “Matter found entirely divorced from spirit is thrown over into the still lower worlds,” but this is not “into the sixth ‘Gati’ or ‘way of rebirth’ of the vegetable and mineral worlds, and of the primitive animal forms.” The latter is not one of the six gatis or ways of rebirth taught in Buddhism.

At the conclusion of the post, “Some Mahatma Letters Sources” (April 30, 2017), I had written: “The Buddhist terms and quotations found in the Mahatma letters are therefore often inaccurate on two counts: They are quotations from early and often unreliable translations; they are often altered to bring in esoteric teachings that are not stated in the Buddhist texts themselves.” To this we can add a third cause of inaccuracy: problems in transmission by chela amanuenses who are not familiar with the subject being discussed, and who therefore sometimes misunderstand the available sources that they are drawing upon.


  1. See Blavatsky’s letter and other related materials assembled in this file: Mahatma Letters, on writing of, HPB, etc.

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Theosophical Glossary Sources

By David Reigle on May 31, 2017 at 1:55 pm

The Theosophical Glossary by H. P. Blavatsky, published in 1892, draws its definitions from many sources. Comparatively little of it was written by Blavatsky herself. Boris de Zirkoff laboriously located the source references for a large number of its entries, and he hand-wrote these in his copy of this book. These source annotations are of great value for students of Theosophy. They show what was merely copied from then existing sources, as opposed to Blavatsky’s own definitions. His annotated copy thus nicely complements the listings of Secret Doctrine References that were made available on the website of the Theosophical Society, Pasadena, or Theosophical University Press, and the extensive supplement to these prepared by William (Bill) Savage (see blog posts of Jan. 24, 2016, and June 30, 2016).

We are very fortunate that this labor of Boris de Zirkoff did not die with him. He left his books to the Theosophical Society in America, and his annotated copy of The Theosophical Glossary is now in its Archives. Janet Kerschner and Michael Conlin spent a lot of time and effort in making a scan of this book, which they have kindly made publicly available here:


They received much assistance from Richard Robb in identifying the bibliographic sources referred to. Boris in his annotations had used brief abbreviations and brief titles that were known to him, but were not spelled out in full. A detailed listing of these, along with much other helpful information, is found at the Theosophy Wiki entry on The Theosophical Glossary, here:


To me, it is a very great boon to have access to the knowledge of where any particular entry in Blavatsky’s Theosophical Glossary came from. This allows us to evaluate its accuracy. I am extremely grateful to Boris de Zirkoff for tracing these sources, and to all involved in making this information publicly available.

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Some Mahatma Letters Sources

By David Reigle on April 30, 2017 at 11:59 pm

The previous post, “A Mahatma Letters Puzzle,” ended with the statement: “The Buddhist terms and quotations found in the Mahatma letters almost always come from then existing books, and therefore cannot be relied upon for accuracy.” This statement should be substantiated by more than just the one example given in that post (nirira namastaka = nirvva namastaka = nirvvānamastaka = nirvāṇa-mastaka, a ghost word). For this purpose we may look at the long and doctrinally important Mahatma letter #16, chronological #68, called the “devachan letter” because it is the primary source for the Theosophical teachings on the after-death states including devachan (Tibetan, bde ba can).

Before the days of digital books and electronic searches, Doss McDavid noticed many parallels between the devachan letter and passages in an 1871 book by Samuel Beal, A Catena of Buddhist Scriptures from the Chinese. He found that the quotations of Buddhist scriptures given in this letter come from this book. There would be no reason for the Mahatma to translate these passages himself. These letters were personal correspondence, not scholastic treatises, and were often written in haste. The Mahatma simply drew upon what was already available in order to help make his point.

From Mahatma letter #16, chronological #68, 2nd ed. pp. 99-100, 3rd ed. pp. 97-98, chronological ed. pp. 189-190:

(1) The Deva-Chan, or land of “Sukhavati,” is allegorically described by our Lord Buddha himself. What he said may be found in the Shan-Mun-yi-Tung. Says Tathâgata:—
“Many thousand myriads of systems of worlds beyond this (ours) there is a region of Bliss called Sukhavati. . . . This region is encircled with seven rows of railings, seven rows of vast curtains, seven rows of waving trees; this holy abode of Arahats is governed by the Tathâgatas (Dhyan Chohans) and is possessed by the Bodhisatwas. It hath seven precious lakes, in the midst of which flow crystaline waters having ‘seven and one’ properties, or distinctive qualities (the 7 principles emanating from the ONE). This, O, Sariputra is the ‘Deva Chan.’ Its divine Udambara flower casts a root in the shadow of every earth, and blossoms for all those who reach it. Those born in the blessed region are truly felicitous, there are no more griefs or sorrows in that cycle for them. . . . Myriads of Spirits (Lha) resort there for rest and then return to their own regions.1 Again, O, Sariputra, in that land of joy many who are born in it are Avaivartyas . . .”2 etc., etc.


1. Those who have not ended their earth rings.
2. Literally—those who will never return—the seventh round men, etc.

From Beal’s Catena, pp. 378-379:

[Translated from the Chinese version of Kumârajîva, as it is found in the Shan-mun-yih-tung.] At this time Buddha addressed the venerable Sariputra as follows:—

“In the western regions more than one hundred thousand myriads of systems of worlds beyond this, there is a Sakwala named Sukhavatî. Why is this region so named? Because all those born in it have no griefs or sorrows: they experience only unmixed joys; therefore it is named the infinitely happy land. Again, Sariputra, this happy region is surrounded by seven rows of ornamental railings, seven rows of exquisite curtains, seven rows of waving trees—hence, again, it is called the infinitely happy region. Again, Sariputra, this happy land possesses seven gemmous lakes, in the midst of which flow waters possessed of the eight distinctive qualities . . . .

“Again, Sâriputra, the land of that Buddha ever shares in heavenly delights (or music), the ground is resplendent gold, at morning and evening showers of the Divine Udambara flower descend upon all those born there, at early dawn the most exquisite blossoms burst out at their side: thousand myriads of Buddhas instantly resort here for refreshment, and then return to their own regions, and for this reason, Sâriputra, that land is called most happy. . . .

“Again, Sâriputra, in that land of perfect joy all who are born, are born as Avaivartyas (never to return), . . .”

We notice that, or order to make his point, the Mahatma emphasized certain parts of this quotation by underlining (italics in the printed version), such as the word seven. But he also changed the quotation in order to make his point, changing Beal’s “eight distinctive qualities” to “‘seven and one’ properties, or distinctive qualities (the 7 principles emanating from the ONE).” Beal’s “at morning and evening showers of the Divine Udambara flower descend upon all those born there” became “Its divine Udambara flower casts a root in the shadow of every earth, and blossoms for all those who reach it.” Beal’s “all those born in it have no griefs or sorrows” was moved down and became “there are no more griefs or sorrows in that cycle for them.” Beal’s “thousand myriads of Buddhas instantly resort here for refreshment, and then return to their own regions” became “Myriads of Spirits (Lha) resort there for rest and then return to their own regions.1,” with the footnote “1. Those who have not ended their earth rings.” Beal’s “Again, Sâriputra, in that land of perfect joy all who are born, are born as Avaivartyas (never to return),” became “Again, O, Sariputra, in that land of joy many who are born in it are Avaivartyas . . .2,” with the footnote “2. Literally—those who will never return—the seventh round men, etc.”

As may be seen, all of these changes made by the Mahatma in the quotation brought in teachings about devachan that the Mahatma was giving to his correspondent, A. P. Sinnett. It may be thought that these changes made by the Mahatma are simply more accurate translations of the Buddhist text. They are not. They are less accurate translations, but bring in esoteric interpretations of the Buddhist text. We learn what the Shan-mun-yih-tung is from Samuel Beal’s article, “Translation of the Amitâbha Sûtra from Chinese” (Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1866, pp. 136-144). Beal begins his translation by saying: “The Amitâbha Sûtra. Extracted from the work called ‘Shan Mun Yih Tung,’ or Daily Prayers of the Contemplative School of Priests” (p. 140). He had a few pages earlier introduced it as follows: “The following translation of the Amitâbha Sûtra is made from the Chinese edition of that work, prepared by Kumârajîva, and bound up in a volume known as the ‘Daily Prayers of the Buddhist Priests belonging to the Contemplative School’ (Shan-mun)” (p. 136). So what we have from Beal in his 1871 Catena of Buddhist Scriptures from the Chinese is actually a translation of the Amitābha Sūtra. As is well known, the Amitābha Sūtra is a popular name for the shorter Sukhāvatī-vyūha Sūtra.

The original Sanskrit text of the shorter Sukhāvatī-vyūha Sūtra was recovered and first published by F. Max Müller in his article, “On Sanskrit Texts Discovered in Japan” (Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1880, pp. 153-188). It was reprinted along with the larger Sukhāvatī-vyūha Sūtra in the book, Sukhāvatī-vyūha: Description of Sukhāvatī, the Land of Bliss, edited by F. Max Müller and Bunyiu Nanjio (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1883). So we can compare the original Sanskrit. The Sanskrit word for the first change, “eight” to “seven and one,” is aṣṭa, “eight.” The Sanskrit word for the second change, “showers” to “shadow,” is pravarṣati, “showers.” Further, the Sanskrit does not have “Udambara flower” here, but rather has “māndārava flower.” The third change, the addition of “in that cycle,” is not in the Sanskrit. The fourth and fifth changes are a little more complex. Beal’s translation from the Chinese does not quite match the Sanskrit, but neither do the changes introduced by the Mahatma. Of course, the added footnotes by the Mahatma bring in esoteric teachings, not found in the exoteric text.

For those who wish to pursue this in English translations, both the shorter and the longer Sukhāvatī-vyūha Sūtras were first translated from the original Sanskrit by F. Max Müller in Buddhist Mahâyâna Texts, Part II (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1894), = Sacred Books of the East, vol. 49. This was a pioneering translation, when the meaning of a number of Sanskrit Buddhist terms was not yet established. Both the shorter and the longer Sukhāvatī-vyūha Sūtras were again translated from the original Sanskrit by Luis O. Gómez, and published in Land of Bliss: The Paradise of the Buddha of Measureless Light (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1996). This book also includes separate translations of these two texts from the Chinese translations. The shorter Sukhāvatī-vyūha Sūtra was translated from the Tibetan translation by Georgios T. Halkias, and published in Luminous Bliss: A Religious History of Pure Land Literature in Tibet (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2013).

References to the rest of the quotations from Buddhist texts in Mahatma letter #16, chronological #68, the “devachan letter,” in Beal’s Catena of Buddhist Scriptures from the Chinese, are, in sequence: pp. 117, 86, 85, 90, 120, 64. Perhaps more about these and others can be posted later.

In summary, the Mahatma letters teach esoteric Buddhism. Being letters, they used then available translations of Buddhist texts for their quotations. They often altered these quotations to show the esoteric teachings. The Buddhist terms and quotations found in the Mahatma letters are therefore often inaccurate on two counts: They are quotations from early and often unreliable translations; they are often altered to bring in esoteric teachings that are not stated in the Buddhist texts themselves.

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A Mahatma Letters Puzzle

By David Reigle on March 31, 2017 at 11:05 pm

The term “Nirira namastaka” is found in all editions of The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett (1st, 2nd, and 3rd editions, p. 44, letter #9; chronological edition, p. 62, letter #18). The context may be seen in the following quotation (quoted from the 3rd edition):

“When our great Buddha—the patron of all the adepts, the reformer and the codifier of the occult system, reached first Nirvana on earth, he became a Planetary Spirit; i.e.—his spirit could at one and the same time rove the interstellar spaces in full consciousness, and continue at will on Earth in his original and individual body. For the divine Self had so completely disfranchised itself from matter that it could create at will an inner substitute for itself, and leaving it in the human form for days, weeks, sometimes years, affect in no wise by the change either the vital principle or the physical mind of its body. By the way, that is the highest form of adeptship man can hope for on our planet. But it is as rare as the Buddhas themselves, the last Khobilgan who reached it being Tsong-ka-pa of Kokonor (XIV Century), the reformer of esoteric as well as of vulgar Lamaism. Many are those who ‘break through the egg-shell,’ few who, once out, are able to exercise their Nirira namastaka fully, when completely out of the body. Conscious life in Spirit is as difficult for some natures as swimming is for some bodies.”

It appears to be an important technical term, pertaining to advanced Buddhist metaphysics. However, no such term could be identified in the 93 years since the Mahatma letters were published, even with the availability in recent decades of large numbers of primary Buddhist texts. Since photographic images of the Mahatma letters have become available, it has become possible to see if there is another way to read this term in the handwriting of the letter (http://theosophy.wiki/ML/18-12_6117.jpg). Daniel Caldwell did this last year (April, 2016), and saw that it could be read as “Nirvva namastaka.” If we now break the word differently, we find the familiar Buddhist term, “nirvvana”; i.e., “nirvana” (nirvāṇa). Daniel could then search the internet for “nirvvanamastaka.” Sure enough, as Daniel informed me, it turned up in the entry on “Buddhism and Buddha” in The New American Cyclopaedia, vol. 4, 1869 and 1870, p. 66.

Just as the similarly long unidentified phrase “Kam mi ts’har” found in the Mahatma letters was copied directly from a book existing at that time, as shown by Antonios Goyios (http://www.blavatskyarchives.com/kammitshar/kammitshar.htm), so with this term. It is even found hyphenated at the end of a line in The New American Cyclopaedia at exactly where it was wrongly broken in the Mahatma letter: Nirvvā-namastaka. There can be no doubt that this is the source from which it was taken by the Mahatma or his chela amanuensis. As Daniel pointed out, the Mahatma letter also has: “Many are those who ‘break through the egg-shell,’ few who, once out, are able to exercise their Nirira namastaka fully, when completely out of the body.” The New American Cyclopaedia has (p. 66): “He who breaks its fetters, ‘breaks through the eggshell’ and escapes the alternation of births.” Later on in this Mahatma letter we also read: “Matter found entirely divorced from spirit is thrown over into the still lower worlds—into the sixth ‘Gati’ or ‘way of rebirth’ of the vegetable and mineral worlds, and of the primitive animal forms.” (3rd edition, p. 47; the 1st and 2nd editions wrongly have ‘Gate’ for ‘Gati’). The New American Cyclopaedia has (p. 66): “In some cases the soul of man may sink even below the 6 Gatis or ways of rebirth into the vegetable and mineral way; . . .” Of course, the Mahatma letter used this term and these phrases somewhat differently, but clearly adopted them from this source.

About nirvvānamastaka, i.e., nirvāṇa-mastaka, The New American Cyclopaedia has (p. 66):

“The final goal of Buddhistic salvation is the uprooting of sin, by exhausting existence, by impeding its continuance; in short, by passing out of the Sansāra into the Nirvāna. The signification of the latter term is a prolific subject of discussion and speculation with the different philosophic schools and religious sects of Buddhistic Asia. Its interpreters prefer vague definitions, from fear of offending sectarians. It means the highest enfranchisement; to theists, the absorption of individual life in God; to atheists in naught. The Thibetans translate it by Mya-ngan-los-hdah-ba, the condition of one freed from pain; eternal salvation, or freedom from transmigration. Its etyma are: nir, not; van, to blow, and arrow; its orthography is Nirvvāna; its collaterals are: Nirvvānamastaka, liberation ; nirvvāpa, putting out, as a fire, &c. It is Nibbāna in Pali, Niban in Burmese, Niruphan in Siamese, Ni-pan in Chinese.”

So is nirvāṇa-mastaka, then, an important technical term pertaining to advanced Buddhist metaphysics? No. It is a ghost word, a word that appeared in a dictionary and was copied in other dictionaries, but has not been found in use in Sanskrit texts. According to my research, it first appeared in the 1832 second edition of Horace Hayman Wilson’s Sanskrit-English dictionary (A Dictionary in Sanscrit and English, Calcutta). It is there written nirvvāṇamastaka, and defined as “liberation,” with the etymology nirvvāṇa and mastaka, “head, chief” (p. 477). It was obviously copied from there by the unnamed writer of the “Buddhism and Buddha” entry in The New American Cyclopaedia. It is not found in the 1819 first edition of Wilson’s Sanskrit-English dictionary, nor is it found in the 1900 revised edition of Wilson’s dictionary. We may guess that one of Wilson’s assistants may have found it in some Sanskrit kośa, lexicons that often list words that are not found in use, and put it in the second edition of his dictionary. From there it was copied (but without doubling the “v”) in the relevant 1865 volume 4 of the massive 7-volume Petersburg Sanskrit-German dictionary (Sanskrit-Wörterbuch, by Otto Böhtlingk and Rudolph Roth, St. Petersburg), where it is followed by “!” and specifically stated as coming from Wilson (p. 209). It was retained in the relevant 1882 volume 3 of the shorter 7-volume Petersburg dictionary (Sanskrit-Wörterbuch in Kürzerer Fassung), keeping the “(!)” after it (p. 219). It was likewise copied in Monier Monier-Williams’ Sanskrit-English Dictionary, both his 1872 first edition and his 1899 enlarged edition, where it is also specifically stated as coming from Wilson. It is also found in Vaman Shivram Apte’s Sanskrit-English dictionary, but no source is given. This typically means that Apte did not find it in any Sanskrit text, but copied it from previous dictionaries. It is even found in the Vācaspatyam Sanskrit-Sanskrit dictionary, where it is defined like a compound of such type would have to be construed: nirvāṇam nirvṛtir mastakam iva yatra, i.e., as nirvāṇa that is like the head. It is not, however, found in the earlier Śabda-kalpa-druma Sanskrit-Sanskrit dictionary. Nor is it found in Franklin Edgerton’s Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Dictionary. My electronic searches of massive quantities of Sanskrit texts, now possible, have failed to yield a single occurrence of this term. I even posted a query for a “textual source for nirvāṇa-mastaka” to the Indology e-list on Jan 13, 2017, consisting of several hundred Indologists working today. No one was able to come up with a textual source for this term.

The Mahatma letter is describing a form of adeptship that is not described in any Buddhist text known to me; yet in doing this the Mahatma or his chela amanuensis used a ghost word copied from an 1869 book that was in turn copied from an 1832 dictionary. We have seen other cases of this type of copying from then existing books in the Mahatma letters, as found by Antonios Goyios in the article linked above (“Tracing the Source of Tibetan Phrases Found in Mahatma Letters #54 and #92”), and there are still others that could be cited. The relevance of this to students of Theosophy is that, due to the methods used by the Mahatmas in writing their letters, terms such as this found in the Mahatma letters may not be actual Buddhist technical terms that can be found in the Sanskrit texts. As we know from a number of statements made by the Mahatmas in their letters, their method of writing was to surround themselves with material on the topic at hand that is impressed upon the ākāśa, and to draw from it what they needed. They were not native English speakers. Their letters constitute personal correspondence, often written in haste, not articles written for publication. The Buddhist terms and quotations found in the Mahatma letters almost always come from then existing books, and therefore cannot be relied upon for accuracy.

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de la Loubère on Tévetat

By Jacques Mahnich on March 1, 2017 at 3:33 pm

Here is short translation of the first pages which confirms the identity of Sommona-Codom (Buddha Shakyamuni) and Tévetat (Devadatta).

The life of Tévetat, translated from the “Bali” language by de la Loubère -1691

“Following the birth of Pouti Sat1, who, due to his good works during time, reached Nireupan [Nirvana], his father, King Taoufoutout checked with soothsayers to know what was his future, and what would be his son’s fate, such son who’s birth which was surrounded by so many wonders. All of them assured him he had good reason to rejoice, and that, should his son stayed in the world, he would become the emperor of the whole earth, or, if he would become a Talapoint [monk], abandoning the pleasures of the century, he would reach Nireupan [nirvana]…

His parents, some ten thousands, having learn from the soothsayers that the universal domain of this world, or the Nireupan [nirvana] would be reached by this young prince, decided together to give him, when he would be aged enough, each of them one of their son, to follow him : and so they made it. Then, when this Prince, after the seven years’ penance in the woods, became worthy of the Nireupan [nirvana], a lot of these young men we just talked about, who were following him, became Talapoins [monks] with him ; but among this large troupe, there were six who, even if they were his parents and following him, were not willing to. Here are the names, because we will not talk about them any more later. The first was Pattia, the second Anourout, the third Aanon, the fourth Packou, the fifth Quimila, the sixth Tévetat2, and this is the one we are writing the history…

One day, after Sommona-Codom preaching, Anourout was elevated to the Angel degree. In the same time, the monk Aanon reached the first level of perfection. Packou and Quimila, after having being trained for a long time in prayers and meditation, were elevated to become Angels. Tévetat could not obtain anything but a great power and the capability to perform miracles.3

Sommona-Codom having gone with his Talapoins to the town of Koufampi, the inhabitants came everyday to provide with presents, sometimes to Sommona-Codom, sometimes to Moglà and Saribout, his two preferred disciples, one sitting on his right side, the other one on his left side ; some gave presents to Kasop and to Pattia, some others to Quimila and Packou, or to Anourout, but what was remarkable is that no one gave any present to Tévetat. Nobody talked about him, as if he was never born, which made him very outraged.”

NDT : then follows the story of Tévetat transforming himself magically into a young child covered with snakes in order to convince Achatasatrou, the son of the King of Pimmepisan to give presents to him and to participate to his conspiration against Sommona-Codom. After having being rebuked by Sommona-Codom, Tévetat went back to Achatasatrou, and persuaded him to take over his father, to become king and then give Tévetat the means to destroy Sommona-Codom. The new king gave Tévetat 500 warriors to go kill Sommona-Codom, which did not happen, Sommona-Codom being able to convince all the warriors to become his disciples. Then Tévetat keep trying to kill Sommona-Codom by throwing stones to him, with no success. Another time, he sent his most fierce elephants to crush him, again with no success.

Many other stories are told about Tévetat trying to defeat Sommona-Codom, including previous lifes’ stories. He finally end up in the Avethi hell [Avichi?].


On the “Bali” language : de la Loubère gave us pictures of the “Bali” alphabets as follows :